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Momentum Remains Strong for U.S. Pork, Beef Exports

Published: Jul 07, 2014

U.S. pork and beef exports maintained their strong momentum in May, with export volumes for both products exceeding last year’s totals and value increasing by double digits, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by USMEF.

May pork exports totaled 188,030 metric tons (mt), up 4 percent from a year ago. Export value remained in the $600 million range for the third consecutive month, increasing 19 percent to $599.6 million. For January through May, pork export volume (964,631 mt) was 9 percent ahead of last year’s pace, while export value was up 15 percent to $2.84 billion.

Beef exports in May were up 5 percent in volume (102,967 mt) and 15 percent in value ($589 million). For the first five months of 2014, export volume was up 9 percent to 479,344 mt and value increased 17 percent to $2.64 billion.

Pork results led by record-high value to Mexico

Mexico continued its outstanding performance for U.S. pork in May, posting the largest monthly volume (56,665 mt, +8 percent) since January and an all-time value record of $138.8 million (+45 percent). For January through May, exports were up 14 percent in volume (277,905 mt) and 39 percent in value ($614 million).

“USMEF has been focused for some time on increasing overall pork consumption in Mexico, and it is gratifying to see those efforts paying off in the form of very strong, sustained demand,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “With Mexico experiencing a domestic supply crunch and its hog prices up about 35 percent year-over-year, we have substantially increased shipments to Mexico even as U.S. pork prices moved higher.”

May results for other key markets included:

  • Exports to South Korea (11,885 mt, +37 percent) continued well ahead of last year’s pace, as high domestic pork prices helped fuel imports. May export value was up nearly 75 percent to $40.7 million. The five-month total for Korea was 32 percent higher in volume (69,154 mt) and increased 46 percent in value ($208 million).
  • Pork muscle cut exports to Japan (37,880 mt) were up 7 percent in May, pushing the January-May total to 140,523 mt (+1 percent), valued at $624 million. Japan’s hog prices have also surged (up 17 percent from a year ago), reflecting the impact of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) and higher-priced imports.
  • While still down from a year ago, export volume to Canada (18,031 mt, -6 percent) was the largest of 2014. Value increased 7 percent to $73.7 million.
  • Exports to Colombia remained very strong, increasing 28 percent in volume (3,748 mt) and 59 percent in value ($11.9 million). For the first five months of the year, shipments to Colombia have more than doubled in both volume (22,215 mt, +107 percent) and value ($59.3 million, +114 percent).
  • China’s slumping hog prices and ample domestic supplies led to a weak month for U.S. exports to the China/Hong Kong region, as volume dropped 28 percent to 24,999 mt and value slipped 30 percent to $52.6 million. But January-May volume (165,926 mt) was still within 2 percent of last year’s pace and value was up 2 percent to $369 million.

Pork export value per head slaughtered was a near-record $69.57 in May, nearly $15 higher than a year ago. The percentage of U.S. production exported was 24 percent for muscle cuts and 28 percent when including muscle cuts and variety meat – up from 23 percent and 26 percent, respectively, in May 2013.

Beef exports largest of the year to Hong Kong, Mexico

In mid-June, U.S. beef gained full access to Hong Kong, adding key products such as ground beef and processed meats. But even with some restrictions still in place, May exports to Hong Kong surged more than 80 percent from a year ago to 13,008 mt. On a value basis, exports more than doubled to $95.2 million.

“We’re pleased to finally have full access to Hong Kong, which is something the U.S. beef industry has been pursuing for some time,” Seng said. “But this market has already performed exceptionally well, especially since we gained access for bone-in cuts early last year. That step has helped us achieve outstanding growth in Hong Kong’s foodservice sector.”

Other May highlights for beef exports included:

  • Exports to Mexico increased 35 percent to 20,480 mt, the largest monthly total of the year, while value increased 52 percent to $93.5 million. This pushed the January-May total to 96,281 mt (+34 percent), valued at $452.5 million (+49 percent).
  • Strong momentum continued for exports to Korea, which increased 26 percent in volume (9,269 mt) and 48 percent in value ($58.5 million). Korea’s five-month value total was nearly one-third higher than a year ago ($314.7 million, +32 percent) as retail outlets and restaurants have shown renewed interest in featuring U.S. beef. Beef muscle cut value ($299.8 million, +41 percent) accelerated at an even more rapid pace.
  • Exports to Taiwan continued to bounce back from a slow first quarter, increasing 25 percent in volume (3,408 mt) and 16 percent in value ($25.7 million). Demand for chilled U.S. beef remains strong in Taiwan, even as frozen exports face increased competition from Australia (due to large, drought-induced supplies) and New Zealand (which has a new free trade agreement with Taiwan).
  • Japan’s results slowed from a year ago, but this was in comparison to very large totals from May 2013. For the first five months of the year, exports to Japan are fairly steady with last year’s strong pace in both volume (87,269 mt, -1 percent) and value ($547.9 million, +1 percent).

Beef export value per head of fed slaughter set another new record in May at $279.39, up $47.72 from a year ago. The ratio of U.S. production exported was 11 percent for muscle cuts and 14 percent for muscle cuts and variety meat combined – up from 10 percent and 13 percent, respectively, from a year ago.

Lamb exports still struggling

U.S. lamb exports continued to trend lower in May despite a rebound in leading market Mexico (794 mt, +11 percent; $1.37 million, +15 percent). The gains in Mexico were more than offset by a continued slump in Canada, where May exports totaled just 33 mt. Through the first five months of the year, lamb exports were down 23 percent in volume (4,475 mt) and 14 percent in value ($11.26 million).

Complete export totals for U.S. pork, beef and lamb are available online.

Please contact Joe Schuele at or 303-226-7309 with any questions.

Editor's notes:

  • Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat unless otherwise noted.
  • One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds.