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China, Mexico Help Drive Torrid Red Meat Export Pace

Published: Nov 10, 2011
Editor’s notes:
- Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat unless otherwise indicated.
- One metric ton = 2,204.622 pounds

Led by a record-breaking month for pork exports to China and the continued rebound of beef exports to Mexico, 2011 remains on pace to set new annual records for the value of beef, pork and lamb exports, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by USMEF.

September results show pork exports up 23.6 percent in volume and 40.5 percent in value from last year while beef exports rose 27.3 percent in volume and 35.9 percent in value. Not to be left out, U.S. lamb exports soared 113 percent in volume over September of 2010 while the value of those exports jumped 83.9 percent.

“This year has presented opportunities for the U.S. red meat industry to expand exports, and the industry has worked aggressively to capitalize on those opportunities,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “The premiums that international buyers pay for U.S. beef, pork and lamb are critical to the bottom line of U.S. producers.”

On the pork side of the industry, September exports equated to 26 percent of total U.S. pork and pork variety meat production and those exports were valued at $56 per head – solid increases from September 2010 totals of 22 percent of production and $40.87 per head.

For beef, September exports accounted for 14.4 percent of total beef and beef variety meat production and $212.64 in value per head of fed cattle, up from 11 percent of production and $151 in value per head last year.

Pork exports Like their beef and lamb counterparts, pork exports remain on a record-setting pace and, like beef, are on track to eclipse $5 billion in value for the year for the first time on record. For the month, the U.S. exported 183,495 metric tons of pork valued at $537.6 million, which trails only March of 2011 as the second-highest monthly export value on record.

For the year, the U.S. has exported more than 1.6 million metric tons of pork valued at nearly $4.4 billion, increases of 16 percent and 25 percent, respectively, over the first nine months of 2010.

Pork exports were led by China/Hong Kong, which bought 47,180 metric tons of product, up 64 percent from last year. The 39,020 metric tons purchased by China was a new monthly record, up 92 percent from last year. The value of the exports to China/Hong Kong was $101.7 million, a 129 percent jump from last year.

Japan remains the leader in value of U.S. pork exports. September’s totals were 38,689 metric tons valued at $166.2 million, increases of 23 percent in volume and 32 percent in value over last year.

Mexico continues to be the volume leader in pork, importing 41,666 metric tons (7 percent increase) valued at $87 million (18 percent increase).

Pork exports to South Korea grew 82.3 percent in volume and 153.6 percent in value versus year-ago levels, although the pace has slowed somewhat from earlier in the year.

Japan and South Korea are two of the markets that USMEF has aggressively targeted in a campaign to raise the visibility of the U.S. pork butt, a cut identified by U.S. exporters as one that has been undervalued.

“We are seeing a very positive response in Japan and Korea, as well as the Caribbean, China, Singapore and some other markets where we’ve worked with the food service and retail sectors to help educate them on the taste and value of the pork butt,” said Seng. “Since the pork butt is one of the top two or three cuts we export to these markets, raising the value of those exports is important for returning higher values to producers.”

Canada was another positive market for U.S. pork in September, reaching record-large volumes (20,034 metric tons) valued at $75.6 million, increases of 31 percent in volume and 42.3 percent in value.

Beef exports U.S. beef exports hit 109,708 metric tons (27.3 increase) valued at $461 million (35.9 increase) in September. For the year, exports stand at 967,388 metric tons valued at $4 billion, increases of 26 percent and 39 percent, respectively, over the first nine months of 2010.

Beef exports were paced by Mexico, which purchased 22,054 metric tons valued at $86.8 million, up 14 percent and 37 percent, respectively, from September of 2010.

The Middle East was the second-largest volume destination in September, importing a record-large 17,624 metric tons valued at $35.6 million. Both were roughly a 59 percent jump over year-ago totals. Egypt remains the largest importer in the region, but growth is seen in both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Exports to Canada were the smallest since March, but remain 12 percent higher in volume and 19 percent in value versus last September, reaching 14,564 metric tons valued at $78.2 million. Canada was the second-largest value and third-largest volume destination for U.S. beef for the month.

While off the pace of earlier in the year, beef exports to Japan and South Korea were up year-on-year. Japan imported 12,188 metric tons valued at $69.5 million (up 7.4 percent in volume and 18.1 percent in value) while Korean imports reached 9,027 metric tons valued at $42.2 million (up 9.5 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively).

“We are encouraged by the growing confidence level we are seeing among consumers in both Japan and Korea regarding U.S. beef,” said Seng. “In recent years, we were seeing lingering concerns related to BSE, but the ‘We Care’ campaign in Japan and the ‘To Trust’ campaign USMEF has mounted in Korea have garnered consumer support.”

USMEF is preparing to launch the latest wave of its ‘To Trust’ beef imaging campaign in Korea to help continue the momentum in that key export market.

Lamb exports While smaller in volume than beef and pork exports, lamb also is on pace for a record-setting year in 2011, already surpassing the 2006 record year. For the month of September, the U.S. exported 1,418 metric tons of lamb (113 percent increase) valued at $2.3 million (83.9 percent jump). For the year, the industry has exported 14,301 metric tons valued at $23.5 million, increases of 76 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Mexico continues to be the prime destination for U.S. lamb. For the year it has purchased 8,029 metric tons valued at $10 million. Canada and the Caribbean are the No. 2 and No. 3 markets.

Detailed statistics are on the USMEF statistics page.