The first month of 2013 offered a mix of good news and challenges for exports of U.S. beef and pork during January, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Beef exports continued the trend shown in 2012 with higher export values on lower volumes while pork exports improved slightly from December’s levels but remained behind year-ago totals.
Led by sharply higher exports to Hong Kong, Canada and Taiwan, and solid growth to Japan, beef exports for January rose 9.3 percent in value from year-ago levels on slightly lower (-3.2 percent) volumes.
Pork exports rebounded slightly from December, but closed 7.6 percent lower in value on 11.7 percent smaller volumes compared to January 2012. The ASEAN region was the bright spot with 17.1 percent higher volumes and slightly higher (2.7 percent) value.
"The year ahead will offer no shortage of challenges to red meat exports, which will require our industry to be creative and aggressive," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "On the beef side, we are still dealing with market access barriers in Saudi Arabia and significant obstacles in Russia, but there are signs for optimism in the months ahead with expanded beef access to Japan and Hong Kong that will provide a boost."
Also in Asia, Seng noted that an overabundance of domestic pork in South Korea is driving down demand for imports there while China’s aggressive efforts to build its domestic pork industry appear to be bearing fruit as its need for imports declines.
Seng also indicated that the continued devaluation of the Japanese yen, which has fallen 20 percent in value versus the U.S. dollar since last summer, will be a factor in purchasing patterns by this key trading partner for both beef and pork.
Beef export highlights
- For the month of January, U.S. beef exports totaled 86,608 metric tons valued at $443.8 million. The decline in volume versus January 2012 was more than accounted for by a 91.5 percent drop in exports to Russia, which has been delisting U.S. beef plants for detection of growth promotant residues.
- Canada emerged as the top volume and value market for U.S. beef exports in January, buying 16,586 metric tons (up 32 percent from last year) valued at $102.9 million (42 percent increase).
- Hong Kong saw its U.S. beef purchases rise 144 percent in volume and 115 percent in value to 7,004 metric tons valued at $37.1 million – pushing it to No. 6 on the beef export list.
- Taiwan continued its recovery as an export market with its January purchases rising 14.5 percent in volume and 39.7 percent in value (3,167 metric tons valued at $22.6 million).
- The value of beef exports to South Korea rose 12.2 percent to $58.2 million on slightly lower volumes (down 1 percent to 11,602 metric tons).
- Anticipating the Feb. 1 expansion of the market to beef from cattle under 30 months of age, Japan increased its U.S. beef purchases 5.5 percent in volume and 21.6 percent in value to 10,217 metric tons valued at $72.5 million.
Pork export highlights
- For the month of January, pork exports totaled 186,681 metric tons valued at $523.7 million – declines of 11.7 percent in volume and 7.6 percent in value from last January, but up slightly from December’s totals of 186,135 metric tons valued at $515.9 million.
- Japan remains the value leader, buying 37,745 metric tons of U.S. pork (-9.5 percent) valued at $173.6 million (+1.7 percent).
- Mexico remains the volume leader, purchasing 55,103 metric tons (-9 percent) valued at $102.7 million (-6.9 percent).
- Russia posted the largest pork export gains at 3,314 metric tons (+8.2 percent) valued at $10.2 million (+9.7 percent), although some of that purchase may have been made in anticipation of Russia’s closing of its borders to U.S. pork and beef in February.
- The ASEAN region posted a 17.1 percent gain in pork volume (to 4,921 metric tons) and a 2.7 percent bump in value to $10.8 million.
"Looking ahead, USMEF is focusing on building demand for chilled and branded pork in both Japan and Korea as well as overall consumer demand for pork in Mexico," said Seng. "We will see benefits from these campaigns in the year ahead."
Lamb export highlights
Exports of U.S. lamb also were mixed, up 16.6 percent in value over last January’s totals on lower volumes – down 28.2 percent. Totals for the month were 984 metric tons valued at $2.4 million.
Mexico remains the top export destination, buying 851 metric tons (86.5 percent of total exports) valued at $1.6 million (64.3 percent of total value). Sales to Mexico rose 37.2 percent in value on 16.7 percent lower volume for the month.
Canada and the Caribbean are the No. 2 and No. 3 regions for U.S. lamb exports, and both posted double-digit declines from year-ago levels.
Complete export results for pork, beef and lamb are available online.