Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation
Despite a continued slump in U.S. red meat export volume and a further dip in August sales, the value of beef and pork exports for the first eight months of the year remained slightly ahead of 2011’s record-setting pace, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
U.S. beef exports in August were the second-largest of the year at 100,468 metric tons, but this was still 14 percent below the August 2011 volume. In value, August exports totaled $486.2 million. While 5 percent lower than a year ago, it was also the second-highest monthly total of 2012.
For January through August, beef exports were 11 percent lower than a year ago in volume (759,901 metric tons) but still 2 percent above last year’s record value pace at $3.66 billion.
U.S. pork exports in August were down 6 percent in volume (175,310 metric tons) and 7 percent in value ($495.5 million) compared to a year ago, but these totals were up 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively, from the previous month’s performance. Through the first eight months of the year, 2012 pork exports were up 2 percent in volume (1.474 million metric tons) and 8 percent in value ($4.13 billion) from last year’s record levels.
"We face a challenging business climate in several key markets, with rising production costs and slowing economic growth creating some anxiety among buyers," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "We’re also seeing a surge in domestic meat supplies in some areas, particularly in South Korea. But the commitment to enhancing global demand for U.S. beef and pork remains very strong, as evidenced by the terrific support of our producer organizations. These are the circumstances in which effective global marketing takes on an even greater level of importance, as producers need to maximize the value of every cut and every carcass."
January-August beef exports accounted for 9.8 percent of muscle cut production and 12.7 percent when including variety meat – down from last year’s ratios of 11 percent and 14.2 percent. Export value per head of fed slaughter, however, was up about 6 percent from last year to $212.05.
On the pork side, exports through August accounted for 23.7 percent of muscle cut production and 27 percent when including variety meats, compared to 22.8 percent and 27.3 percent in 2011. Export value averaged $56.51 per head slaughtered, up from last year’s $53.54 during the first eight months of the year.
Japan tops beef export market highlights
Beef exports to Japan continued to shine in August, up 20 percent in volume (17,588 metric tons) from a year ago and increasing 48 percent in value to $119.3 million. Through August, 2012 exports to Japan were steady with last year in volume at 108,720 metric tons, but 23 percent higher in value at $719.5 million – ranking a close second behind Canada for the leading beef value market.
"While the timeline is uncertain, we remain hopeful that a broader supply of U.S. beef will soon be eligible for Japan," Seng said. "This is more critical than ever as demand for U.S. beef is extremely strong. In addition to the traditional forequarter cuts and short plates, and other items such as beef tongue, our key buyers in Japan have a growing interest in middle meats and very high-end cuts. Demand for Prime and higher-level Choice cuts is very promising"
Though exports to Canada were down 15 percent in volume through August (111,372 metric tons), export value remained 4 percent above last year’s record pace at $736.5 million. Exports to the Middle East followed a similar pattern, slipping 9 percent in volume (103,231 metric tons) but increasing 4 percent in value to $229 million. Beef muscle cut exports to the Middle East (-18 percent in volume to 28,397 metric tons and steady in value at $127.5 million) continue to be hindered by lack of access to Saudi Arabia, which closed to U.S. beef due to the April 24 BSE case.
Led by a strong performance in Vietnam, exports to the ASEAN region were up 11 percent in value ($181.9 million) through August despite a 6 percent decline in volume (44,548 metric tons). Beef markets achieving increases in both volume and value included:
- Russia, +8 percent to 52,907 metric tons and +31 percent to $214 million
- Hong Kong, +9 percent to 36,907 metric tons and +28 percent to $194.1 million
- Central and South America, +37 percent to 23,766 metric tons and +77 percent to $87.9 million
Mexico remains the largest volume market for U.S. beef at 140,228 metric tons (-17 percent) but has slipped to third in value ($590 million, -9 percent). While still a critical market for underutilized muscle cuts and variety meat, Mexico’s weak peso and sluggish economy have contributed to a difficult business climate in this price-sensitive market.
Exports to South Korea (84,406 metric tons, -23 percent, valued at $388.8 million, -20 percent) faced similar circumstances, but were also curbed by a surge in domestic meat supplies. With Korea’s livestock inventory recently reaching its highest level ever, its imports from all major beef suppliers have trended lower this year.
U.S. pork strong in mainstay markets Mexico, Japan
While beef exports to Mexico struggle, pork exports continue to perform well – with January-August volume (391,932 metric tons) increasing 14 percent and value ($727.2 million) up 11 percent from a year ago. August exports were up 16 percent in volume to 51,841 metric tons and 9 percent in value to $101.4 million.
"Mexico’s meat processing sector is an outstanding customer for U.S. pork, but USMEF has also made considerable strides in building retail demand," Seng said. "This has made Mexico an attractive destination for a wider variety of pork cuts, which has really enhanced our export value."
Pork exports to Japan had slowed during the early summer, but rebounded in August to post the highest volume since February at 39,689 metric tons (valued at $169.9 million). Through August, exports to Japan were down 6 percent in volume (307,442 metric tons) but were 6 percent above last year’s record value pace at $1.34 billion.
While pork exports to the China/Hong Kong region were higher through August (+11 percent to 282,637 metric tons and +35 percent to $569.4 million), they are not likely to match last year’s pace in coming months. This is not due to poor market performance, but simply reflects the surge in export activity in late 2011 when China’s domestic pork supplies were slumping and pork prices reached record levels. For August only, exports to China/Hong Kong were down 31 percent in volume to 30,450 metric tons and 34 percent in value to $60.5 million.
Other pork market highlights for January through August include:
- Exports to Canada were up 15 percent in volume (150,583 metric tons) and 18 percent higher in value ($549 million).
- Led by an exceptional performance in Colombia, exports to Central and South America were 18 percent higher in volume (53,206 metric tons) and up 19 percent in value ($134.1 million).
- Exports to Russia were 30 percent higher in volume (63,699 metric tons) and 22 percent higher in value ($182.9 million). Since Russia’s WTO accession was completed in August, in-quota exports now enter at zero duty, rather than the previous 15 percent.
- While exports to the Oceania region were roughly steady with last year, exports to New Zealand were up one-third in volume (5,853 metric tons) and 30 percent in value ($17.7 million).
August lamb exports best of 2012
U.S. lamb exports have battled a tough economic environment in 2012 but fared better in August, totaling 1,415 metric tons valued at $2.65 million. This was slightly below last year’s level, but marked the best performance of 2012. For January through August, exports were down 32 percent in volume (8,714 metric tons) and 18 percent in value ($17.3 million).
Complete export results for pork, beef and lamb are available online.