U.S. pork and beef exports posted a strong May performance, increasing significantly from the previous month and from year-ago levels, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Pork exports reached 222,015 metric tons (mt) in May, up 11 percent year-over-year and the fourth-largest monthly volume on record. Pork export value was $583.2 million, up 16 percent. For January through May, exports increased 14 percent from a year ago in volume (1.05 million mt, a record pace) and 18 percent in value ($2.68 billion).
Even with the growth in U.S. pork production, exports account for a larger share in 2017. May exports equated to 29.4 percent of total production and just under 25 percent for muscle cuts only – up from 28.4 percent and 24.3 percent, respectively, last year. Through the first five months of 2017, exports accounted for 27.9 percent of total production and 23.2 percent for muscle cuts (up from 25.2 percent and 21.3 percent). Exports are also commanding higher prices, indicative of strong demand across a wide range of international markets. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $58.61 in May, up 7 percent from a year ago. The January-May average was $54.23, up 14 percent.
May beef exports totaled 105,321 mt, up 6 percent from a year ago, valued at $582.6 million, up 9 percent. For January through May, beef exports were up 12 percent in volume (497,322 mt) and 16 percent in value ($2.75 billion) compared to the same period last year.
Exports accounted for 13 percent of total U.S. beef production in May and 10 percent for muscle cuts only – each down one percentage point from a year ago. Through May, these ratios were steady with last year’s pace – 12.8 percent for total production and 10 percent for muscle cuts. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $265.55 in May, matching the average from a year ago. Through May, per-head export value averaged $270.27, up 8 percent. Beef export prices are also increasing, especially in key Asian markets, with double-digit increases in Japan and Korea in May illustrating the strong demand for U.S. beef.
May was a particularly strong month for variety meat exports, with pork variety meat volume climbing 16 percent to 47,766 mt (a record high for May), and value up 33 percent to $102.7 million. Beef variety meat exports reached 2017 highs in both volume (30,173 mt, up 12 percent) and value ($77.7 million, up 10 percent).
“2017 is shaping up as a very solid year for U.S. pork and beef exports, but we remain in an extremely competitive situation in each of our key markets,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “That’s why it is so important to capitalize on every opportunity to increase carcass value, and this is where variety meat plays an important role. USMEF has been working with our industry partners to expand the range of variety meat product offerings and diversify their destinations, and those efforts are paying important dividends for producers.”
Japan, Korea and Taiwan shine for U.S. beef while rebound in Hong Kong continues
Beef exports to leading market Japan maintained their strong momentum in May, with volume up 9 percent to 25,340 mt and value up 24 percent to $160.8 million. Through May, exports to Japan exceeded last year’s pace by 28 percent in volume (123,291 mt) and 32 percent in value ($731.4 million). This included a 45 percent increase in chilled beef exports to 58,000 mt, valued at $414 million (up 42 percent). U.S. beef now accounts for 51 percent of Japan’s chilled beef imports, surpassing Australia, and climbing from 40 percent last year.
May beef exports to South Korea fell below last year’s large volume (14,268 mt, down 8 percent) but still increased 2 percent in value to $89.2 million. Chilled exports were the largest of the year at 3,700 mt, up 89 percent. For January through May, exports to Korea were up 12 percent in volume (68,656 mt) and 21 percent in value ($435.3 million). This included an 85 percent increase in chilled exports (to 15,700 mt) with value up 88 percent to $138.5 million. The U.S. is now Korea’s largest supplier of chilled beef, with market share climbing from 36.5 percent last year to 52 percent in 2017, surpassing Australia.
Beef exports to Taiwan posted a solid May performance with volume up 24 percent to 3,426 mt and value up 20 percent to $28.6 million. Through May, exports to Taiwan totaled 16,925 mt (up 24 percent) valued at $147.1 million (up 27 percent). This included chilled exports of 6,650 mt (up 16 percent) valued at $76 million (up 19 percent). The U.S. is the largest supplier of beef to Taiwan and holds 70 percent of the chilled beef market.
After a slow start to the year, exports to Hong Kong continued to gain momentum in May with exports increasing 29 percent in volume (10,290 mt) and 36 percent in value ($66.4 million). Through May, exports to Hong Kong totaled 47,683 mt (up 7 percent) valued at $300.3 million (up 14 percent).
Beef exports within North America declined in May, with volumes below year-ago levels for both Mexico (20,797 mt, down 7 percent) and Canada (8,700 mt, down 21 percent). Through May, exports to Mexico were still up 4 percent year-over-year in volume (95,379 mt) but fell 5 percent in value ($379.1 million). January-May exports to Canada remained ahead of last year’s pace in both volume (47,405 mt, up 3 percent) and value ($319.7 million, up 6 percent).