Beef exports remained on a record-setting pace in October while pork exports put up one of their strongest performances of the year, yet remain behind 2012’s record-high levels, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Top beef export markets Japan and Mexico both increased the volume of their U.S. beef purchases in excess of 40% for the month, while sales to the booming Hong Kong market skyrocketed 148%. Overall, October U.S. beef exports reached 107,471 metric tons valued at $564.5 million, increases of 6 and nearly 14%, respectively.
Pork exports in October were the largest of the year on a value basis at $539.9 million, and second-largest in volume at 186,637 metric tons, but still declined 11 and 14%, respectively, from last October’s all-time single-month highs for both volume and value. Both the ASEAN and the Central and South America region recorded double-digit increases, as they have all year, but other key markets trailed 2012’s historic highs.
“The ebbs and flows of export markets require us to make continual adjustments,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “For example, Japan remains the United States’ top value market for pork exports, but relentless competition from other international suppliers is making it tougher for us to maintain our market share.”
Seng also noted while the U.S. Congress continues to debate budget cuts that could affect spending on programs like the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program that support U.S. agricultural exports, the European Commission has proposed more than tripling its spending to support EU agricultural and agri-food sector products.
“There is no question that exports create jobs and support a positive balance of trade,” Seng said. “The European Commission sees that link and is looking to put significantly more resources into their export initiative, so we can expect to face even heavier competition in the top value markets going forward.”
Top beef markets
Increased exports to leading markets Japan and Mexico — along with sharp increases in sales to Hong Kong — continue to drive U.S. beef sales to higher levels. For the year, total U.S. beef exports (muscle cuts plus variety meat) stand at 969,186 metric tons (up 2%) valued at nearly $5.1 billion (up 11%), and are expected to easily top 2012’s record value of $5.51 billion.
Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $251.06 in October, up $29 from last year. Exports accounted for 11% of muscle cuts and 13.5% of total beef exports (muscle cuts plus variety meat) for the month, up from 10 and 12.6%, respectively, last year.
Top-performing beef export markets in October were:
- Japan: 18,004 metric tons (up 40%) valued at $106.3 million (up 16%)
- Mexico: 21,983 metric tons (up 53%) — Mexico’s largest volume of U.S. beef imports since December 2011 – valued at $95.3 million (up 50%)
- Hong Kong: 15,403 metric tons (up 148%) — a new record volume — valued at $98.1 million (up 184%)
- South Korea: 9,509 metric tons (up more than 25%) valued at $60.6 million (up close to 75%)
- Central/South America: 3,560 metric tons (up 61%) valued at $15.5 million (up nearly 54%)
“Hong Kong is clearly emerging as a major beef market, and USMEF’s initiatives there cover retail, food service and trade sectors in this highly competitive and progressive market,” Seng said. “We are the second-largest supplier to Hong Kong, trailing only Brazil, but we are continuing to miss out on even larger opportunities in mainland China, where we have not had access since 2003.”
Mainland China’s beef imports through the first 10 months of this year have reached 253,196 metric tons valued at nearly $1.1 billion — increases of 562% in volume and 595% in value over last year, according to the Global Trade Atlas. Australia holds better than a 50% market share there in the United States’ absence.
Top pork markets
Mexico, the leading volume market for U.S. pork, dipped 2% in volume during October (55,152 metric tons) while the value increased 5.6% to $114.6 million. Through the first 10 months of the year, export volume to Mexico (501,979 metric tons) was steady with last year’s record pace and export value ($964.4 million) was 4% higher.
October sales to the top value market, Japan, slipped nearly 8% in value ($173.5 million) on 15% lower volume (38,322 metric tons). For January through October, exports were down 9% in volume (356,032 metric tons) and 6% in value ($1.58 billion).
U.S. pork export value in October averaged $51.79 per head, down 7% from last year. Exports accounted for 20% of pork muscle cuts and nearly 24% of total pork production, compared to 23 and 27.4% last year.
Other key pork export results in October were:
- China/Hong Kong region: 36,531 metric tons (down nearly 6%) valued at $80.9 million (down 4%)
- Canada: 18,831 metric tons (down 7%) valued at $69.3 million (down 6%)
- Central/South America: 13,040 metric tons (up more than 23%) valued at $33.9 million (up 30%) – led by a 65% increase in volume to Colombia (3,916 metric tons) and 66% jump in value ($10.7 million)
- South Korea: 5,566 metric tons (down 60%) valued at $16 million (down 57%)
- ASEAN: 6,912 metric tons (up more than 17%) valued at $15.2 million (up more than 15%)
Lamb exports in October were down to top market Mexico, but increased for next-largest markets Canada and the Caribbean. For the month they equaled 855 metric tons, down 36.5%, while the value of exports dipped 11.7% to nearly $2.2 million.
For the year, lamb exports remain up 7% in value at $23.6 million on 7% lower volumes (10,575 metric tons).