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U.S. Pork, Beef Exports off to Solid Start in 2011

Published: Mar 11, 2011
Editor’s notes:
Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat, unless otherwise indicated.
One metric ton = 2,204.622 pounds

January exports of U.S. pork and beef were well above year-ago levels, though both took a step back from the totals recorded in the previous month, according to statistics compiled by USMEF.

Pork exports totaled 165,138 metric tons valued at $396.9 million – an increase of 15 percent in volume and 19 percent in value over January 2010. Beef exports made an even larger year-over-year jump, increasing 24 percent in volume to 89,673 metric tons and 43 percent in value to $355.6 million.

“Despite some significant market access issues – some ongoing and some new – our exports performed quite well in January,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “U.S. meat products continue to command excellent prices throughout the world, which is providing a boost for the American producer and the entire meat industry.”

Northern Asia markets drive strong pork results
Japan showed no letdown from its record-breaking performance of 2010, when it purchased more than $1.6 billion in U.S. pork. January exports to Japan totaled 35,765 metric tons valued at $133.5 million – an increase of 28 percent in volume and 24 percent in value over a year ago.

“Our team in Japan is continuing to launch new initiatives, including a new pork butt promotion aimed at educating consumers about the quality and versatility of this cut, to help keep this momentum going throughout the year,” Seng said.

Exports to China were also strong, reaching 19,258 metric tons valued at $29.1 million. This market was essentially closed in January 2010, making a year-over-year comparison difficult. But this volume total is about 90 percent of that achieved in January 2008 – a year of record-large exports to China.

South Korea’s foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) situation has resulted in widespread culling of swine and is creating a need for more imported pork. U.S. exports to Korea were up 128 percent in volume (13,183 metric tons) and 163 percent in value ($32.1 million) compared to January 2010. Global Trade Atlas data show that Korea’s pork imports from all sources have increased by about 60 percent over a year ago.

Exports to the top Central American markets of Honduras and Guatemala showed solid growth, with Honduras up 20 percent in volume (1,757 metric tons) and nearly 40 percent in value ($3.9 million) while Guatemala was up 41 percent in volume (683 metric tons) and 29 percent in value ($1.5 million).

“The Central American markets show a lot of potential,” said Seng. “They don’t have the established retail and food service infrastructure that we see in markets like Japan, Korea and Mexico so the volumes are much smaller, but they are growing markets where we are working with importers and buyers to educate them about the quality and value of U.S. products.”

Exports to the Australia/New Zealand region were flat in volume (4,330 metric tons) but surged by 46 percent in value to $13.7 million. New Zealand was especially strong, with exports more than doubling in volume and jumping 154 percent in value.

Mexico, which just missed the $1 billion mark for U.S. pork during a record-breaking 2010, cooled slightly in January but still purchased 50,148 metric tons valued at $86.9 million. This was lower than January 2010 but still higher in value than the 2010 monthly average.

The ASEAN region posted a decline of 30 percent in volume and 26 percent in value as exports slowed to the three top markets of the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia.

“The FMD situation in Korea has created a clear need for imported pork and China also has challenges in its domestic pork production,” Seng said. “As for Japan, the range of products we are successfully marketing there just continues to grow. With regard to Mexico, we are hopeful January was just a speed bump for a very red-hot market. If the retaliatory tariffs from the NAFTA trucking dispute are eliminated soon, this will help U.S. pork regain its momentum in Mexico.”

Coming off record value year, beef exports continue remarkable run
U.S. beef exports cracked the $4 billion mark for the first time in 2010, and showed no signs of slowing down in 2011. Mexico was the only major market to post a decline in 2010 as it still struggled to recover from the global economic slump, but showed renewed momentum in the fourth quarter of the year. This trend continued in January with an 18 percent jump in the value of exports ($74.9 million) on volume (20,2411 metric tons) that was slightly below last year.

Canada solidified its position as the No. 2 market for U.S. beef, with January exports up 17 percent in volume (12,917 metric tons) and surging one-third in value to $63.1 million.

Despite limited market access, U.S. beef continued to make strides in Japan with exports rising nearly 70 percent in both volume and value to 9,459 metric tons valued at $47.2 million.

Exports to Korea continued to show remarkable strength, increasing 63 percent in volume (11,975 metric tons) and 81 percent in value ($49.2 million) over January 2010.

Despite political and social unrest in the Middle East, exports to the region grew more than 50 percent in volume (11,643 metric tons) and nearly doubled in value to $25.4 million. Exports to Egypt, the region’s largest market, rose 55 percent in volume and 134 percent in value. Results were mixed for the region’s other two major markets, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Exports to Saudi Arabia were up 12 percent in volume and 53 percent in value. Export volume to the UAE was down 18 percent, but it still achieved a slight value increase of 4 percent.

Exports to Hong Kong surged 156 percent in volume (5,219 metric tons) and 168 percent in value ($22.5 million) despite the continued restriction of U.S. beef to boneless muscle cuts.

Exports to Russia dipped slightly in volume (2,706 metric tons) but grew 40 percent in value to $5.4 million as Russia continued to show a growing appetite for U.S. muscle cuts.

Taiwan was the only major market to show a year-over-year decline in U.S. beef demand, with exports dropping 14 percent in volume to 2,609 metric tons and 4 percent in value to $16.8 million. This was primarily due to Taiwan’s sudden change in testing for ractopamine residues, which created a very uncertain environment for importers. USMEF expects the decline in export activity to Taiwan to be even more pronounced in February as the two countries continue to work on resolving the ractopamine testing issue.

“U.S. beef continues to make remarkable strides across the globe, despite some major obstacles,” Seng said. “It is very gratifying to see demand in Mexico recovering, as that was the one piece of the puzzle that was missing throughout much of 2010.”

Despite widespread news reports suggesting that foot-and-mouth disease is driving U.S. beef exports to Korea, USMEF-Korea Director Jihae Yang says it is simply a case of consumer demand for U.S. beef achieving a sustained and significant recovery.

“The Korean FMD cases did not significantly harm the domestic cattle industry,” she explained. “The Korean government culled less than 5 percent of the cattle population, so there is still plenty of domestic beef available in this market. Demand for U.S. beef was in recovery long before the FMD crisis started, so FMD is not the major factor driving the increase in U.S. beef exports.”

Lamb export volume shows positive trend, but value still slumping
January exports of U.S. lamb rose 24 percent in volume (1,277 metric tons) over January 2010 but dropped 19 percent in value to $2.28 million. Canada, the Caribbean and the Middle East showed positive trends while export value to Mexico, Central America and Hong Kong declined compared to last year.

Complete export statistics for pork, beef and lamb are posted online.