April exports of U.S. pork reached the largest monthly volume in more than a year, while U.S. beef exports remained on a record value pace through April, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Pork exports totaled 200,125 metric tons (mt) in April, up 4 percent year-over-year and the largest since March 2014. Export value ($512.1 million) was down 14 percent, reflecting lower pork prices. Through the first four months of 2015, pork exports were down 7 percent in volume (726,102 mt) and 14 percent in value ($1.93 billion) from the same period last year.
Beef exports moved seasonally higher in April to 92,263 mt, the largest monthly volume since December 2014 but still down 7 percent year-over-year. Beef export value ($555.3 million) was also the highest since December and up 3 percent year-over-year. From January through April, beef exports totaled 341,927 mt, down 9 percent from the same period in 2014. But export value was still 4 percent ahead of last year’s record pace at $2.12 billion.
“Exports are still recovering from a slow start to the year, but the April results confirm that the U.S. industry is regaining global momentum,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “April was really the first time this year that we saw relief from the West Coast port situation – not that shipping traffic was completely back to normal, but the worst of the congestion was clearly behind us. And despite the U.S. dollar continuing to be very strong relative to the currencies of most key customers and competitors, demand for U.S. meat is holding up well.”
Seng cautioned, however, that the strong dollar leaves the U.S. industry in a vulnerable position when competitors gain tariff advantages in key markets.
“Australian beef is enjoying its second round of tariff rate reductions in Japan, and the projected slowdown in Australia’s beef production has not materialized,” he said. “A similar situation may develop with regard to European pork, as the EU and Japan have pledged to complete their trade agreement negotiations by the end of this year. There are a number of FTA negotiations that bear watching, because they have the potential to further shake up the competitive landscape.”
Rebound in pork export volume led by Mexico, Korea
Mexico is once again the pacesetter for U.S. pork exports, with January-April volume up 8 percent year-over-year to 237,998 mt. Export value to Mexico slipped 13 percent, however, to $413.6 million, reflecting lower prices for hams, picnics and other key items. Exports to South Korea bucked the global trend by increasing even more in value ($241.8 million, up 45 percent) than in volume (79,401 mt, up 39 percent).
Other January-April highlights for U.S. pork include:
- Japan remains the leading value market for U.S. pork, despite an 18 percent drop in value to $552.4 million. Export volume to Japan was down 11 percent to $149.8 million. April exports to Japan were the largest in 12 months at 45,297 mt, but were still down 5 percent from a year ago.
- Having only a small number of plants approved for export to China continues to inhibit exports to the China/Hong Kong region, with exports down 30 percent in volume (99,184 mt) and 32 percent in value ($214.2 million). Exports regained some momentum in April, however, exceeding year-ago levels for the first time in 13 months, reflecting growth to Hong Kong.
- The Dominican Republic and Guatemala continue to be strong performers for U.S. pork in 2015. Exports to the Dominican Republic were up 32 percent in volume (8,398 mt) and 16 percent in value ($19.4 million), while totals for Guatemala were up 19 percent (to 4,597 mt) and 16 percent ($13.1 million), respectively.
Though January-April totals were still down 25 percent year-over-year, exports to Oceania rebounded impressively in April as combined shipments to Australia and New Zealand reached 7,492 mt – the highest monthly volume in nearly three years.
Through the first four months of the year, pork exports equated to 24.5 percent of total production and 20.5 percent of muscle cut production – down from 28 percent and 23 percent, respectively, during the same period last year. Pork export value per head slaughtered averaged $50.35, down 19 percent from a year ago and 4.5 percent lower than in 2013.
Strong demand in Asia keeps beef export value on record pace
January-April beef exports to Japan increased year-over-year in both volume (70,972 mt, up 5 percent) and value ($457.7 million, up 8 percent). The same was true for Korea, where exports increased 4 percent in volume (38,828 mt) and 8 percent in value ($277.2 million). April was an especially strong month for exports to Korea, where U.S. beef has gained increasing popularity in the retail sector.
“U.S. beef has traditionally enjoyed a great deal of success in Korea’s restaurant sector,” Seng explained. “Over the past year, we have placed an increased emphasis on beef promotions in Korea’s supermarkets and hypermarkets, and the results have been outstanding.”
Other January-April highlights for U.S. beef include:
- Despite a weakened peso, demand for U.S. beef has held up well in Mexico. Though down 3 percent year-over-year, export volume (73,802 mt) was still the largest of any international market, reflecting strong growth in variety meat. Exports increased 2 percent in value to $365.9 million, ranking second behind Japan.
- Exports to Taiwan rebounded in April after slumping the previous month. While January-April volume (8,969 mt) remained down 6 percent year-over-year, value increased 13 percent to $88 million.
- Similar to pork, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala have been top performers in Latin America. Exports to the Dominican Republic jumped 37 percent in volume (2,522 mt) and 27 percent in value ($19.2 million), while exports to Guatemala were up 24 percent (1,522 mt) and 28 percent ($9 million), respectively.
- Results have been impressive for the two leading markets in the ASEAN region. Exports to the Philippines were up 7 percent in volume to 5,068 mt, but jumped 41 percent in value to $29 million. Exports to Vietnam were 36 percent higher in volume (1,148 mt) and surged 87 percent in value to $9.9 million.
January-April beef exports equated to 13 percent of total beef production and 10 percent for muscle cuts only – down slightly from last year. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $292, up 10 percent from a year ago.
April lamb exports down sharply
April exports of U.S. lamb were the lowest of the year in both volume (507 mt) and value ($1.23 million). Through April, 2015 exports were down 22 percent in volume (2,778 mt) and 26 percent in value ($6.6 million) from a year ago, as growth to the Middle East and Caribbean could not offset sharp declines in Canada and Mexico.
Complete January-April export results are available on the USMEF statistics webpage.
Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation