January meat exports show a strong start to 2018

January exports of U.S. beef were significantly higher than the large totals of a year ago while pork exports were steady in volume and increased in value, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Beef exports totaled 105,486 metric tons (mt) in January, up 9% year-over-year, while export value surged 21% to $624.4 million. Exports accounted for 12.4% of total beef production in January, up slightly from a year ago. For muscle cuts only, the percentage exported increased from 9.5% to 10.1%. Beef export value averaged $293.06 per head of fed slaughter, up 14% year-over-year.

January pork exports totaled 203,488 mt, steady with last year’s strong volume, while export value increased 7% to $545.6 million. Pork exports accounted for 24.7% of total pork production, down from 26.2% a year ago. For muscle cuts only, the percentage exported declined slightly to 21.5%. Pork export value averaged $50.93 per head slaughtered, up 1% year-over-year.

For muscle cuts only, beef exports reached 80,495 mt (up 15%) valued at $555.7 million (up 23%). Pork export volume increased 5% to 164,189 mt, while value climbed 9% to $454.2 million. Beef variety meat volume fell 5% to just under 25,000 mt, but value increased 7% to $68.8 million. Pork variety meat exports dropped 16% in volume (39,299 mt) but still managed a 2% increase in value to $91.5 million.

“January export results were solid overall and were especially strong for muscle cuts,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF President and CEO. “Despite the decline in variety meat volume, export value continued to increase. This underscores the important contribution variety meats deliver for producers and for everyone in the U.S. supply chain.”


Asian markets continue to shine for U.S. beef

U.S. beef continued to gain momentum in the Japanese market, with January exports increasing 7% from a year ago in volume (23,968 mt) and 19% in value ($148.6 million). This included a 30% increase in chilled beef exports to 12,411 mt, valued at $92.4 million (up 38%). Frozen exports declined 13% in volume (8,141 mt) but increased slightly in value ($33.1 million). Frozen U.S. beef entering Japan is subject to a 50% safeguard tariff, which is scheduled to revert back to 38.5% on April 1, the beginning of the new Japanese fiscal year. Benefiting from a bilateral trade agreement with Japan, frozen beef from Australia is subject to a duty of 27.2%. This rate will decline to 26.9% on April 1.

Other January highlights for U.S. beef included:


  • Exports to South Korea, which reached a record $1.2 billion in 2017, increased 13% from a year ago to 17,133 mt, while export value soared 34% to $122.3 million. This included a 54% increase in chilled beef exports to 3,954 mt, valued at $36.9 million, up 63%. Through the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS), the duty on U.S. beef was reduced to 21.3% on Jan. 1, about 5%age points lower than Australia’s rate for this year and down significantly from the pre-KORUS rate of 40%.
  • Following large shipments in the fourth quarter of 2017, exports to Hong Kong slowed in January, but still easily exceeded last year’s totals, increasing 41% from a year ago in volume (10,493 mt) and 53% in value ($79.8 million). Exports to China, which resumed in June after a 13-year absence, hit a new monthly high of 819 mt in January valued at $7.5 million.
  • Exports to Taiwan posted impressive gains in January, increasing 17% in volume to 4,207 mt. Export value increased 41% to $42 million.
  • Led by solid gains in Indonesia and Vietnam, exports to the ASEAN region climbed 22% in volume (3,108 mt) and 13% in value ($15.9 million).
  • Strong results in Chile and Colombia fueled beef exports to South America, which increased 90% in volume (3,307 mt) and 65% in value ($13.9 million).
  • Exports to Central America jumped 40% in volume (1,082 mt) and 32% in value ($5.9 million), led by a strong performance in Guatemala and larger variety meat shipments to El Salvador.
  • Beef exports to Africa were mostly variety meat in 2017, but January produced a large increase in muscle cut exports to Angola and South Africa. As a result, total exports to Africa were up 19% in volume (954 mt) and surged 88% in value to $1.4 million.


Pork steady to Mexico; strong increases for Japan, Korea, Central America

Building on a record 2017 performance, January pork exports to Mexico increased 1% from a year ago in volume (72,997 mt) and 4% in value ($133.5 million). Mexico continues to be a mainstay market for U.S. hams and is the second-largest destination (behind China/Hong Kong) for pork variety meat.

Other January highlights for U.S. pork included:


  • Exports to leading value market Japan totaled 35,048 mt (up 11%) valued at $146.4 million (up 17%). Chilled exports were up 15% in volume (20,212 mt) and 21% in value ($96.8 million).
  • Exports to Korea, which posted impressive gains in 2017, continued to gain momentum in January as volume increased 17% to 18,879 mt and value climbed 20% to $54.2 million.
  • Led by solid gains in mainstay markets Honduras and Guatemala and exceptional growth in El Salvador, pork exports to Central America increased 18% in volume (6,179 mt) and 20% in value ($14.5 million).
  • Year-over-year increases in both Australia and New Zealand pushed export volume to the Oceania region up 10% to 7,613 mt, while export value increased 15% to $22.2 million. Pork exports to Oceania are primarily composed of raw material for further processing, with Australia being one of the leading destinations for U.S. hams.
  • Led by strong growth to Vietnam, January export volume to the ASEAN region climbed 16% to 3,053 mt and value was up 17% to $7.9 million. The strong performance in Vietnam helped offset lower exports to the Philippines, the region’s largest destination for U.S. pork.
  • Reflecting larger domestic production in China and correspondingly lower hog and pork prices, exports to China/Hong Kong fell 16% to 31,997 mt, but still achieved a 2% increase in value to $77.9 million. For muscle cuts only, exports to China/Hong Kong increased 10% in volume (12,827 mt) and 14% in value ($25.6 million) from a year ago, but slowed from the fourth quarter pace when shipments gained momentum ahead of Chinese New Year. Following two big years, January pork variety meat exports to the region were the lowest since 2015.


Lamb exports get long-awaited boost from variety meats

Exports of U.S. lamb muscle cuts posted a solid performance in 2017, but overall results were held back by a decline in variety meat demand. That trend reversed in January, as variety meat exports were up 62% in volume to 614 mt and jumped 73% in value to $687,000. This helped push overall results for U.S. lamb to 740 mt (up 29%) valued at $1.5 million (up 6%). Variety meat export growth was led by Mexico, Angola and Gabon, while lamb muscle cut exports increased to the Caribbean and Canada.

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