WASHINGTON – Red meat exports made gains in volume and value for January, a strong start for 2014 despite signs challenges could arise later in the year, according to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Beef exports for January advanced 13 percent in volume and 16 percent in value on strong demand from Mexico, Japan and Hong, while pork exports climbed 3 percent in volume and 2 percent in value on market growth in Mexico. Lamb exports gained 7 percent in volume and 9 percent in value.

“In pork, there are a number of recognized challenges on the production side as well as unresolved access issues,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “In addition, we are also seeing increased competition in the form of higher marketing budgets and favorable prices for the EU, Brazil and Canada.”

Beef exports for January totaled 97,824 metric tons while the year-over-year value was $514.5 million, USMEF reported. Exports accounted for 13 percent of total beef production (including variety meats) and 10 percent of muscle cuts alone. Export value per head of fed slaughter advanced $14.79 from a year ago to $219.73.

Pork exports for the month totaled 191,561 metric tons with a value of $535.6 million, according to USMEF. Pork exports accounted for 25.5 percent of total pork production and 21 percent of muscle cuts. Export value increased $2.12 from last year to average $54.70 per head.

Lamb exports for January reached 1,056 metric tons for a value of $2.7 million. Mexico remains the top-performing export market for US lamb, USMEF noted. Mexico purchased 913 metric tons of lamb products valued at $1.5 million. Central/South America is emerging as another top market driven by demand from Panama. Sales to Panama totaled $96,000 for 13 metric tons.