U.S. pork exports reached nearly 3 million metric tons (mt) in 2020, topping the 2019 record by 11%, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Pork export value also climbed 11% to a record $7.71 billion. Exports set new annual records in China/Hong Kong, Central America, Vietnam and Chile, and achieved strong fourth quarter growth in Japan and Mexico.
U.S. beef exports finished 2020 lower year-over-year, falling 5% in both volume (1.25 million mt) and value ($7.65 billion). But beef exports finished the year with very strong momentum, with fourth quarter volume up 4.5% from 2019 and posting one of the best months on record in December. Beef exports to China were record-large in 2020 and a new volume record was also achieved in Taiwan.
“Obviously the surge in demand from China, especially in the first half of 2020, was a driving force behind the record performance for U.S. pork exports,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF President and CEO. “But China was not the only success story in 2020, as exports achieved growth in a broad range of markets. Diversifying export markets is a top priority for USMEF and the U.S. industry, and that strategy paid dividends — especially in the fourth quarter, when exports to China/Hong Kong were down 9% from 2019 but shipments to the rest of the world nearly offset that slowdown.”
Beef exports were heavily impacted by foodservice restrictions in many major markets but trended higher late in the year, bolstered by very strong retail and holiday demand.
“Consumers across the world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by seeking high-quality products they could enjoy at home, and U.S. beef and pork definitely met this need,” Halstrom said. “We expect these retail and home-delivery demand trends to continue even as sit-down restaurant dining recovers, creating robust opportunities for U.S. red meat export growth.”
December pork exports totaled 259,654 mt, down 8% from the very large year-ago volume, with value down 10% to $687.2 million. December muscle cut exports were also down 8% at 219,224 mt, valued at $590.2 million (down 11%). For the full year, pork muscle cut exports were record-large at 2.51 million mt, up 15% from 2019, valued at a record $6.67 billion (up 12%).
December beef exports totaled 119,892 mt, up 8% from December 2019 and the largest in nearly 10 years. Export value was $744 million, up 9% from a year ago and the second highest total on record. December exports of beef muscle cuts were the second largest ever at 93,941 mt, climbing 11% year-over-year in both volume and value ($659.8 million). For 2020, beef muscle cut exports were down 2% year-over-year at 976,953 mt and fell 5% in value to $6.77 billion.
U.S. lamb exports reached a record 20,045 mt in 2020, up 27% year-over-year, though export value fell 9% to $23.8 million. Export growth was led by leading market Mexico, where volume climbed to 18,927 mt (up 38%) valued at $17.4 million (up 25%).