October Meat Exports Show Improvement, but Still Down Year-over-Year

December 12, 2015 08:27 AM

U.S. pork and beef exports in October edged higher than the previous month, but were still down from a year ago, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork exports were down 3 percent year-over-year in volume to 177,191 metric tons (mt), and fell 21 percent in value to $447.8 million, reflecting lower global pork prices. Through the first 10 months of the year, exports were down 4 percent in volume (1.76 million mt) and were 17 percent lower in value ($4.65 billion).

Similar to the previous two months, pork muscle cut exports improved significantly year-over-year in October, increasing 8 percent to 141,923 mt. But the total results were again held back by weak variety meat exports, which fell 31 percent to 35,268 mt (see editor’s note below).

October beef exports rebounded to some degree from their low September totals, but were still down 14 percent from a year ago in volume (94,524 mt) and fell 26 percent (to $508.2 million) compared to the record-high value posted in October 2014 ($687.1 million). Through the first 10 months of 2015, beef exports were down 12 percent in volume to 877,229 mt and were 10 percent lower in value at $5.28 billion.

Pork exports solid in North American markets, improving in China

October pork exports to Mexico edged slightly lower than a year ago but remained strong at 59,766 mt. For January through October, exports to Mexico were up 5 percent in volume to 589,564 mt, while export value fell 20 percent to $1.04 billion.

Exports to Canada improved 2 percent year-over-year in volume (16,689 mt) in October, while value fell 15 percent to $62.9 million. Despite the weak Canadian dollar, pork exports to Canada have performed relatively well this year, with January-October volume down 5 percent to 165,655 mt and value down 13 percent to $652.9 million.

October exports to China/Hong Kong improved from last year’s low levels, posting the largest volume (32,899 mt, up 23 percent) since early 2014, while export value was down 3 percent to $64.3 million. November results could reveal further improvement, as eligibility to export to China was restored for several U.S. facilities near the end of October. For January through October, exports to China/Hong Kong were down 5 percent from a year ago in volume (271,903 mt) and 13 percent lower in value ($567.2 million).

October exports also trended higher for the Philippines (4,724 mt, up 73 percent), Australia (3,575 mt, up 62 percent), the Caribbean (3,619 mt, up 15 percent) and Taiwan (2,162 mt, up 123 percent), albeit from very low levels last year.

Pork demand remains sluggish in leading value market Japan, with October exports down 10 percent from a year ago in volume (29,849 mt) and value falling 45 percent to $117.2 million. For January through October, exports were 13 percent below last year’s pace in volume (344,609 mt) and down 19 percent in value ($1.34 billion). After record-large imports last year, Japan’s volume from all suppliers was down 7 percent through October. However, its large frozen inventories have declined over the past several months and this could stimulate future demand.

January-October exports accounted for 24 percent of total pork production and 21 percent for muscle cuts only, down from 27 percent and 22 percent, respectively, during the same period in 2014. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $48.84, down 23 percent year-over-year.

“The slowdown in Japan and weak global demand for pork variety meat clearly represent a drag on overall exports in 2015,” noted USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “Recent plant relistings will expand opportunities for U.S. pork in China, which is a high-volume market for variety meat. But the global pork variety meat market is intensely price-competitive, especially with very large volumes currently emerging from the European Union, which are further buoyed by the weak euro.”

Beef exports cool to Korea and Taiwan, but improve in some key markets

South Korea and Taiwan have been top performers for U.S. beef exports in 2015, but demand in these markets softened in October. Exports to Korea were down 7 percent in volume (10,342 mt) in October and fell 30 percent in value ($58.8 million). For January through October, exports to Korea were still up 7 percent in volume to 102,919 mt and reached $671.7 million in value, which was steady with last year’s pace.

In Taiwan, October exports fell 16 percent in volume (2,718 mt) and 13 percent in value ($24 million), but January-October exports were still up 3 percent in volume to 29,490 mt and value remained on a record pace at $265.3 million, up 9 percent.

The decline in Korea and Taiwan was offset to some extent by higher October totals in the Middle East, ASEAN and Caribbean. For January through October, these regions posted the following results:

  • Export volume to the Middle East was down 16 percent year-over-year to 96,518 mt, but value was up 8 percent to $246.8 million. Egypt continues to be a critical destination for U.S. livers and other variety meat, while the leading muscle cut markets are the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
  • Led by strong exports to the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean was up 1 percent year-over-year in volume to 19,149 mt and 10 percent higher in value to $135.9 million.
  • Exports to the ASEAN region were down 16 percent from a year ago in volume (17,452 mt) but were 7 percent higher in value ($115.3 million), led by substantially larger shipments to Vietnam and Singapore.

Similar to pork, U.S. beef exports to Japan have struggled in 2015. Though Japan remains the largest value destination for U.S. beef, it slipped below Mexico in volume as January-October exports were down 15 percent 176,236 mt. Export value to Japan was down 18 percent to $1.1billion.

“Japan’s total beef imports from all suppliers are down about 6 percent this year, but it is noteworthy that both Australia and Mexico have made gains in Japan while imports from other suppliers are down significantly,” Seng explained. “Both countries enjoy lower tariffs in Japan through their respective economic partnership agreements, and the year-to-date results certainly show the importance of this advantage.”

Beef exports to Hong Kong were also well below year-ago levels through October, falling 25 percent in volume (92,389 mt) and 29 percent in value ($641.1 million). Although officials from the U.S. and China continue to discuss resumption of beef exports, China remains closed to U.S. beef.

January-October beef exports accounted for 13 percent of total production and 10 percent for muscle cuts only – each down one percentage point from the same period last year. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $278.06, down 5 percent from a year ago.

Lamb exports still struggling

October lamb exports also showed modest improvement compared to recent months but remained lower year-over-year. For January through October, exports were down 15 percent in volume to 7,585 mt and down 33 percent in value to $15.8 million. Growth markets in 2015 include Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Costa Rica and Honduras, but these gains were offset by lower exports to Mexico and Canada.

Complete January-October export totals for U.S. beef, pork and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics webpage.

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation

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