Pork exports picking up, beef rebounding

March exports of U.S. pork were the largest since May 2021, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). While below last year’s high volume, March beef exports were the largest since October.

Mexico is the pacesetter, but pork exports strengthen in several regions

March pork exports totaled 260,195 metric tons (mt), up 17% year-over-year and the ninth largest volume on record. Export value was also ninth largest at $724 million, up 18% from a year ago. These results capped a strong first quarter for U.S. pork as exports reached 716,691 mt, up 14% from a year ago, valued at $1.96 billion (up 15%).

For Mexico, March pork exports were the second largest on record, while shipments to the Dominican Republic and Malaysia were record-large. Exports also increased to South Korea, Japan, China/Hong Kong, the Philippines, Australia and Taiwan.

“It’s great to see U.S. pork exports continue to expand in many of our Western Hemisphere markets, but there is also notable momentum in the Asia Pacific,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF President and CEO. “With consumer activity in the region rebounding toward pre-COVID levels and U.S. pork very competitively priced compared to European product, 2023 holds excellent potential for broad-based growth.”

Beef exports improving after slow start to the year

Beef exports totaled 120,495 mt in March, down 5% from a year ago. Export value fell 17% to $892.6 million, but both volume and value were the highest in five months. Through the first quarter, beef exports were down 8% year-over-year to 326,494 mt, valued at $2.35 billion (down 22%).

March beef exports to Mexico were well above last year, while export growth to the Caribbean was highlighted by a record month for the Dominican Republic. Exports also increased year-over-year to the Philippines, while beef variety meat demand strengthened in South Africa and Peru. March exports to South Korea were below last year but were the largest in 10 months, while exports to China/Hong Kong were the largest since October. 

“U.S. beef exports faced considerable headwinds late last year and at the beginning of 2023, but the March results show some encouraging trends,” Halstrom said. “Most Asian markets showed renewed momentum in March, while exports continued to trend higher to Mexico, the Caribbean and South Africa.”

March lamb export volume lower, but value increases

March exports of U.S. lamb muscle cuts totaled 218 mt, down 5% from a year ago, but export value still climbed 11% higher to $1.4 million. First quarter exports increased 35% to 664 mt, valued at $3.7 million (up 23%). First quarter lamb exports to Mexico were the largest since 2017, while exports also increased to the Netherlands Antilles, the Bahamas, Guatemala and Taiwan.

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