In April, U.S. red meat exports slowed moderately from the red-hot pace established in March but were still significantly higher year-over-year, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Beef exports reached 99,786 metric tons (mt) in April, up 13 percent from a year ago, valued at $550.4 million, up 14 percent. For January through April, beef exports were up 14 percent in volume (392,001 mt) and 18 percent in value ($2.16 billion) compared to the same period last year.
April exports accounted for 13.6 percent of total U.S. beef production and 10.6 percent for muscle cuts only – up from 13 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively, last year. Through April, exports accounted for 12.7 percent of total beef production (up slightly from last year) and 10 percent for muscle cuts (up from 9.5 percent). April export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $283.52 – up 12 percent from a year ago and the highest of 2017. Through April, per-head export value averaged $271.57, up 11 percent.
Pork exports followed a record-breaking March with a solid April performance, reaching 203,091 mt – up 8 percent from a year ago and the largest April volume on record. Export value was up 11 percent to $517.5 million. For January through April, pork exports increased 15 percent in volume (830,738 mt) and 19 percent in value ($2.1 billion).
Pork exports as a percentage of U.S. production continued to run well ahead of last year, as April exports accounted for 28.4 percent of total pork production and 23.5 percent for muscle cuts only – up from 26.2 percent and 22.1 percent, respectively. Through April, exports accounted 27.5 percent of total pork production and 22.8 for muscle cuts (up from 24.4 percent and 20.5 percent last year). Export value per head slaughtered also trended much higher than a year ago – averaging $55.39 for April (up 11 percent) and $53.12 through April (up 16 percent).
“While April was a very solid month for U.S. red meat exports, we remain in an extremely competitive situation across the world and must stay aggressive with our marketing efforts,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “It is especially gratifying to see our per-head return growing in 2017, even as slaughter numbers are on the rise. But this is also not lost on our competitors, who will quickly fill the void if we do not defend our market share. This is why the continued investment of checkoff dollars and USDA funding in international market development is so critically important.”
Asian markets continue to fuel beef export growth
Leading market Japan continued to shine for U.S. beef in April, with exports up 15 percent in volume (23,540 mt) and 17 percent in value ($143.3 million). Through April, exports to Japan exceeded last year’s pace by more than one-third in both volume (97,951 mt, up 34 percent) and value ($570.6 million, up 35 percent). Growth to Japan has been driven by the surging volume of chilled U.S. beef, with the U.S. capturing 52 percent of Japan’s chilled imports, up from 39 percent market share during the first four months of 2016. U.S. chilled exports through April increased by 48 percent to 45,295 mt, valued at $320 million (up 43 percent), indicating widespread acceptance and a growing range of U.S. cuts available in both the retail and foodservice sectors.
Beef exports to South Korea cooled to some degree in April but remained above last year’s strong pace at 11,837 mt (up 8 percent) valued at $78.5 million (up 17 percent). For January through April, exports to Korea were up 19 percent in volume (54,388 mt) and 27 percent in value ($346 million). Similar to Japan, the driver of growth to Korea is in chilled U.S. beef, with exports through April totaling 12,003 mt (up 84 percent) valued at $106 million (up 86 percent). Korean quarantine clearance data show this strong growth continued through May, with the U.S. share of Korea’s chilled beef imports climbing to 53 percent – up from 38 percent in the same period last year.
The recent rebound continued for beef exports to Hong Kong, where a strong April performance pushed year-to-date exports ahead of last year’s pace. April exports were up 73 percent in volume (11,232 mt) and 67 percent in value ($66.6 million). Through April, exports to Hong Kong totaled 37,392 mt (up 2 percent) valued at $233.9 million (up 10 percent).
Driven by excellent results in the Philippines and Vietnam, April exports to the ASEAN region more than doubled from a year ago in volume (3,783 mt, up 105 percent) and nearly doubled in value ($18.1 million, up 95 percent). April exports to the Philippines (1,522 mt) were the largest in two years and the volume shipped to Vietnam (1,035 mt) was the largest since 2012. For January through April, exports to the ASEAN region increased 62 percent from a year ago in volume (10,975 mt) and 48 percent in value ($59.9 million).
Beef exports to Taiwan remained on a very solid pace, with April volume up 15 percent to 3,753 mt and value up 30 percent to $32.9 million. Through April, exports to Taiwan totaled 13,499 mt (up 24 percent) valued at $118.5 million (up 29 percent). This included chilled beef exports of 5,320 mt valued at 61.6 million.
Mexico was the only major market in which April beef exports dipped below last year’s pace, totaling 17,525 mt (down 15 percent) valued at $69.2 million (down 23 percent). Through April, exports to Mexico were still up 7 percent from a year ago in volume (74,582 mt) but were 4 percent lower in value ($296 million).
Mexico leads April pork export growth as demand from China softens
Mexico continued to solidify its position as the largest volume destination for U.S. pork as April exports were up 10 percent from a year ago in volume (58,828 mt) and exceeded $100 million in value for the 12th consecutive month ($104.7 million, up 12 percent). Through April, exports to Mexico were 24 percent higher than a year ago in volume (265,090 mt) and up 34 percent in value ($476.6 million).
April pork exports to leading value market Japan were steady with last year’s volume at 32,552 mt and 2 percent higher in value at $129.5 million. Through April, exports to Japan remained 5 percent higher than a year ago in volume (134,133 mt) and were up 10 percent in value ($540.8 million). Japanese import data indicate that Canada continues to aggressively pursue Japan’s high-value chilled market, with imports from Canada (53,220 mt) running 19 percent ahead of last year’s pace while chilled imports from the U.S. were up 2 percent to 71,228 mt.
As China’s domestic pork production rebounds, U.S. pork muscle cut exports to China/Hong Kong have trended below year-ago levels each month in 2017 (although exports in April were the largest this year). Exports of pork variety meat, however, have continued to outpace year-ago levels and helped offset much of the decline in muscle cut exports. For combined pork and pork variety meat exports, April volume was down 7 percent to 48,457 mt but value was steady with last year at $96.7 million. For January through April, exports to China/Hong Kong were still 2 percent higher than a year ago in volume (179,493 mt) and up 8 percent in value to $355.5 million. This was driven by a 21 percent increase in variety meat exports to 115,305 mt. These exports also commanded higher prices as value jumped 29 percent to $239 million.
With exports to China/Hong Kong expected to face steeper terrain in coming months as China’s domestic hog prices continue to fall, other destinations for U.S. pork used for further processing take on added importance. In addition to leading market Mexico, some markets that posted impressive April results included:
- Pork exports to South Korea continued their upward trajectory in April, climbing 21 percent above last year in volume (14,585 mt) and 32 percent higher in value ($41 million). Through April, exports to Korea were 28 percent ahead of last year’s pace in volume (65,743 mt) and 37 percent higher in value ($177.9 million).
- April pork exports to Australia were 11 percent higher than a year ago in volume (5,485 mt) and 17 percent higher in value ($16 million), pushing January-April results to 26,092 mt (up 31 percent) valued at $73.8 million (up 36 percent).
- Colombia led a very strong month for pork exports to Central and South America, with April exports to Colombia increasing 84 percent from a year ago in volume (5,085 mt) and more than doubling in value ($12.2 million, up 118 percent). Through April, export volume to Colombia was up 96 percent to 21,617 mt while value jumped 104 percent to $48.7 million. Bolstered also by a large increase in exports to Chile, export volume to Central and South America was up 45 percent through April at 53,741 mt while value climbed 47 percent to $127.8 million.
- April exports to the Philippines increased 91 percent from a year ago in volume (3,430 mt) and soared 217 percent in value to $9.2 million. This pushed January-April exports to the Philippines to 11,217 mt (up 14 percent) valued at $28.3 million (up 42 percent). Exports to the ASEAN region were 6 percent ahead of last year’s pace in volume (12,907 mt) through April while value was up 28 percent to $33.4 million.
- April exports to the Dominican Republic were up 53 percent in volume (3,567 mt) and 73 percent in value (just under $8 million). Through April, exports increased 29 percent in volume (11,365 mt) and 38 percent in value ($25.2 million).
Lamb exports retreat in April
After a strong performance in March, U.S. lamb exports slumped in April with volume (493 mt) down 23 percent from a year ago and value falling 19 percent to $1.3 million. Through April, lamb exports were down 25 percent from a year ago to 2,479 mt but were still 3 percent higher in value at $6.3 million. Although down sharply in April, lamb muscle cut exports remained 17 percent ahead of last year’s pace in volume (731 mt) and 20 percent higher in value ($4.3 million), including promising growth to the Caribbean and Hong Kong.
Complete January-April export results for U.S. beef, pork and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics web page.
Monthly charts for U.S. pork and beef exports are also available online.
- Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat, unless otherwise noted.
- One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds.