U.S. red meat exports have a tough act to follow after a record-setting year in 2011, but the early indications for 2012 are good. January pork exports jumped 28% in volume and 43% in value while beef exports were even in volume but rose 14% in value, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
“There is a challenge to follow a very successful year like 2011 and sustain the momentum,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “The good news is that there are opportunities to expand the presence of U.S. red meat by exploring new market niches as well as increasing access with several key trading partners.”
Several key measurements also showed continued growth: export value per head and percentage of total production exported. For pork, January’s export value equated to $59.44 per head of commercial slaughter compared to $43.59 a year ago, and 29.6% of total production (including variety meat) was exported in January versus 24.2% last year. For just muscle cuts, 25% of production was exported this January compared to 20% last year.
Beef exports equated to $197.95 per head of fed slaughter in value compared to $170.10 last year. The percentage of production exported – 12.3% for beef and variety meats and 9% for just muscle cuts – remained the same.
Sales jumped in double or triple figures with the top key pork trading partners, surging 21% and 27% respectively in volume and value to Mexico; 88% and 158% to China; and 17% and 28% to Japan.
For the month, the U.S. exported 211,457 metric tons of pork valued at $566.9 million, increases of 28% in volume and 43% in value. While it’s early in the year, it is encouraging that these increases are coming on the heels of a year that saw 2011 pork exports top 2.25 million metric tons valued at more than $6.1 billion.
“In some markets, such as Japan, we are reaching into new secondary markets and niches like the sozai (deli) segment,” Seng said. “In others, like South Korea, we’re focused on sustaining the progress we made last year and preparing for the imminent implementation of the Korea-U.S. FTA. Korea has made significant progress in rebuilding their hog inventories so we expect total imports to decrease this year but the U.S. will also gain a competitive edge against other suppliers through the FTA.”
Top pork export markets in January were:
- Mexico: 60,737 metric tons (up 21%) valued at $110.3 million (up 27%)
- Japan: 41,697 metric tons (up 17%) valued at $170.8 million (up 28%)
- China: 36,175 metric tons (up 88%) valued at $75.1 million (up 158%)
- Canada: 19,167 metric tons (up 47%) valued at $65.7 million (up 52%)
- South Korea: 18,173 metric tons (up 38%) valued at $51.5 million (up 61%)
Beef exports are also strong. After a record-setting 2011 that saw the U.S. export nearly 1.3 million metric tons of beef valued at more than $5.4 billion, the industry maintained the pace in January with equal export volumes (89,454 metric tons) while value jumped 14% to $405.9 million.
“Market diversification remains a key for beef in 2012,” Seng said. “We’re aggressively pursuing new opportunities in the Middle East, which has grown to be the No. 2 volume market. The Central/South America region (Chile, Peru and Guatemala) is another where the growth (73% in volume and 79% in value in January) justifies our intensified focus on the retail, food service and processing sectors there.”
Russia is another market where USMEF has focused its efforts with offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg. An expanded tariff rate quota (TRQ) there – up to 60,000 metric tons from 41,700 last year – creates new opportunities for U.S. beef. American beef muscle cut exports to Russia in January jumped 84% to 2,129 metric tons.
In addition, Seng noted that the U.S. beef industry remains optimistic that Japan will expand access for its products during 2012. Currently, the U.S. only can export to Japan beef from animals under 21 months of age, severely limiting opportunities in a country that was the No. 1 beef export market in 2003 prior to BSE.
Top beef export markets in January were:
- Mexico: 19,850 metric tons (down 2%) valued at $87.1 million (up 16%)
- Middle East: 13,047 metric tons (up 12%) valued at $29 million (up 14%)
- Canada: 12,582 metric tons (down 3%) valued at $72.7 million (up 15%)
- South Korea: 11,697 metric tons (down 2%) valued at $51.9 million (up 6%)
- Japan: 9,688 metric tons (up 2%) valued at $59.6 million (up 26%)
The positive news continued for U.S. lamb exports as well in January. Top destination Mexico (accounting for 74.5% of total lamb exports by volume and 54.6% by value) raised its purchases 31% in volume to 1,021 metric tons and 25% in value to $1.1 million.