Beef and pork exports from US remain strong

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – In May, US pork and beef exports kept their strong momentum with export volumes for both product categories surpassing last year’s totals and value increasing by double digits, according to statistics released by US Department of Agriculture and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Pork exports in May totaled 188,030 metric tons (mt), up 4 percent from a year ago. Export value remained in the $600 million range for the third consecutive month, increasing 19 percent to $599.6 million. For January through May, pork export volume (964,631 mt) was 9 percent ahead of last year’s pace, while export value was up 15 percent to $2.84 billion.

Meanwhile, beef exports for the same month increased 5 percent in volume (102,967 mt) and 15 percent in value ($589 million). For the first five months of 2014, export volume was up 9 percent to 479,344 mt and value increased 17 percent to $2.64 billion.

Mexico posted the largest monthly US pork export volume (56,665 mt, +8 percent) since January and an all-time value record of $138.8 million (+45 percent). For January through May, exports increased 14 percent in volume (277,905 mt) and 39 percent in value ($614 million).

Pork muscle cut exports to Japan (37,880 mt) were up 7 percent in May, pushing the January-May total to 140,523 mt (+1 percent), valued at $624 million. Japan’s hog prices have also surged (up 17 percent from a year ago), reflecting the impact of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) and higher-priced imports. However, China’s slumping hog prices and ample domestic supplies led to a weak month for US exports to the China/Hong Kong region, as volume dropped 28 percent to 24,999 mt and value slipped 30 percent to $52.6 million. But January-May volume (165,926 mt) was still within 2 percent of last year’s pace and value was up 2 percent to $369 million.

Pork export value per head slaughtered was a near-record $69.57 in May, nearly $15 higher than one year ago. The percentage of U.S. production exported was 24 percent for muscle cuts and 28 percent when including muscle cuts and variety meat – up from 23 percent and 26 percent, respectively, in May 2013.
US beef gained full access to Hong Kong in mid-June,, adding key products such as ground beef and processed meats. And May exports to Hong Kong surged more than 80 percent from a year ago to 13,008 mt. On a value basis, exports more than doubled to $95.2 million.

US beef exports to Mexico increased 35 percent to 20,480 mt, the largest monthly total of the year, while value increased 52 percent to $93.5 million. This pushed the January-May total to 96,281 mt (+34 percent), valued at $452.5 million (+49 percent).

Strong momentum continued for exports to South Korea, which increased 26 percent in volume (9,269 mt) and 48 percent in value ($58.5 million). Korea’s five-month value total was almost one-third higher than a year ago ($314.7 million, +32 percent) as retail outlets and restaurants have shown renewed interest in featuring US beef. Beef muscle cut value ($299.8 million, +41 percent) accelerated at an even more rapid pace. Exports to Taiwan continued to recover from a slow first quarter, increasing 25 percent in volume (3,408 mt) and 16 percent in value ($25.7 million). And demand for chilled US beef remains strong in Taiwan, even as frozen exports face increased competition from Australia (due to large, drought-induced supplies) and New Zealand (which has a new free trade agreement with Taiwan).

Japan’s results slowed from a year ago, but this was in comparison to very large totals from May 2013. For the first five months of the year, exports to Japan are fairly steady with last year’s strong pace in both volume (87,269 mt, -1 percent) and value ($547.9 million, +1 percent).

Beef export value per head of fed slaughter set another new record in May at $279.39, up $47.72 from a year ago. The ratio of U.S. production exported was 11 percent for muscle cuts and 14 percent for muscle cuts and variety meat combined – up from 10 percent and 13 percent, respectively, from a year ago.

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