U.S. beef exports posted another strong performance in February, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), led by excellent value growth in key Asian and Latin American markets. Pork exports trended lower year-over-year, as larger shipments to Mexico and Japan did not offset the continued decline in demand from China/Hong Kong. Lamb exports continued to gain momentum, reaching the highest monthly value since 2014.
“Rarely have we seen so many outside forces creating headwinds for U.S. meat exports and such uncertainty in the global marketplace,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF President and CEO. “Yet consumer demand for high-quality beef, pork and lamb has proven resilient, and USMEF sees opportunities for further growth in both established and emerging markets.”
Beef export value approaches $2 billion after just two months
Beef exports totaled 108,501 metric tons (mt) in February, up 5% from a year ago, while value climbed 35% to $904.4 million. Through the first two months of the year, exports increased 9% to 227,567 mt, while value soared 46% to $1.93 billion.
“Broad-based growth has become a recurring theme for U.S. beef exports, as international demand has never been higher and global supplies remain tight,” Halstrom said. “We anticipated a lift from COVID-related foodservice restrictions being eased in many destinations. This materialized late last year and in early 2022, although conditions still vary by country. While lockdowns in China and Hong Kong are certainly a setback for foodservice demand, those are the main exceptions as most countries have shifted to more of a living-with-COVID approach.”
Following record-large January shipments, beef export volume to leading market South Korea slowed in February but value climbed 17% to $197.8 million. Through February, exports to Korea already broke the $500 million mark ($514.2 million, up 57%).
February exports to Japan were down 5% but value jumped 21% to just under $200 million. Beef exports also increased to China/Hong Kong, Taiwan, Central and South America, the Caribbean and the Middle East.
Despite strong month for Mexico and Japan, pork exports trend lower
Demand for U.S. pork did not fare as well in the first two months of 2022, as logistics challenges were compounded by lower-priced offerings from competitors. Like the U.S., these suppliers are shipping significantly lower volumes to China/Hong Kong, which has pushed more product into other markets at reduced prices. February pork exports were 198,539 mt, down 17% from a year ago, while export value fell 14% to $541.3 million. Through February, exports were also down 17% in volume (407,347 mt) and 14% in value ($1.1 billion).
“European hog prices jumped sharply in March, climbing about 35% compared to February,” Halstrom said. “While this came too late to impact our February export results, it could lead to more favorable market conditions going forward.”
U.S. pork exports to Mexico reached new heights in 2021 and this strong momentum continued through February. January-February exports to Mexico climbed 33% to 160,996 mt, with value up 19% to $255.1 million.
After a slow start in 2022, February pork exports to Japan rebounded to 32,712 mt, up 3% from a year ago, with value increasing 6% to $139.8 million, led by larger shipments of chilled pork cuts and pork variety meat.
Pork exports to South Korea continue to post impressive value gains, fueled by larger shipments of chilled pork. January-February exports increased in both volume and value to the Caribbean and El Salvador but were lower year-over-year to most other markets.
February lamb export value highest in nearly eight years
February exports of U.S. lamb totaled 1,580 mt, up 37% from a year ago. Export value was $2.56 million, up 62% and the highest since July 2014. Leading market Mexico posted increases in both variety meats and muscle cuts, while muscle cut exports also increased to the Caribbean, Central America and the Philippines. Through February, lamb exports increased 43% from a year ago to 3,113 mt, while value climbed 60% to $4.48 million.
A detailed summary of the January-February red meat export results, including market-specific highlights, is available from the USMEF website.