DENVER – US pork and beef exports pushed the export value for both products to a record first-half pace, based on statistics released by US Department of Agriculture and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

In June, pork exports totaled 181,531 metric tons (mt), an increase of 7 percent from one year ago, while export value increased 25 percent to $585.1 million. For the first half of 2014, pork export volume (1.15 million mt, +9 percent) and value ($3.4 billion, +17 percent) racked up record highs.

Meanwhile, beef exports increased 5 percent in volume (106,609 mt) in June and set a new monthly value record of $631.7 million (+12 percent). First-half export value also set a new record of $3.27 billion (+16 percent). Export volume was 585,953 mt in the first half, up 8 percent from a year ago but trailing the 2011 record.

June pork export value per head slaughtered was a record-high $72.24, up $15 from one year ago. The percentage of US product exports was 25 percent for muscle cuts and 29 percent, when including muscle cuts and variety meat – up from 24 percent and 28 percent, respectively, in June 2013.

Competition has intensified in key Asian markets, with European pork not in the Russian market for the past six months due to an impasse over African swine fever. However, US pork still achieved first-half increases in South Korea and Japan.

Some first-half US pork highlights include exports to South Korea continued ahead of last year’s pace, as high domestic pork prices helped fuel imports. First-half volume was up 31 percent to 77,209 mt, while value increased 48 percent to $236.3 million. Pork muscle cut exports to Japan were up 3 percent in volume (213,653 mt), and 5 percent in value ($969.3 million). Exports to Mexico posted a very strong first half, increasing 15 percent in volume (333,072 mt) and 42 percent in value ($751.6 million). After a down year in 2013, exports to Australia rebounded nicely – increasing 17 percent in volume (33,149 mt) and 25 percent in value ($114.3 million).

In March, US pork regained limited access to the Russian market after a 13-month absence, with two slaughter plants resuming shipments to Russia. Exports were large in June (9,371 mt valued at $34.3 million), but have now been suspended (effective Aug. 7) due to retaliatory sanctions announced this week by the Russian government.

June beef export value per head of fed slaughter set another new record at $299.14, up $38.93 from a year ago. The ratio of US production exported was 12 percent for muscle cuts and 15 percent for muscle cuts and variety meat combined – up from 11 percent and 14 percent, respectively, one year ago.

Some first-half beef export highlights include exports to Hong Kong increased 55 percent in volume (71,829 mt) and 76 percent in value ($492.5 million). US beef regained full access to Hong Kong in mid-June, adding key products such as ground beef and processed meats, which should help exports maintain a strong pace in the second half of 2014. Momentum continued in South Korea, as exports increased 11 percent in volume (56,478 mt) and 40 percent in value ($379.5 million). Strong demand from retail outlets and restaurants helped fuel a 50 percent increase in beef muscle cut value ($362.6 million) to Korea. Meanwhile, export volume to Japan slowed a little from one year ago (111,044 mt, -3 percent), but export value was steady at $693.6 million. Japanese import data indicates US beef continues to gain market share, as imports were lower from all other main suppliers. Exports to Mexico increased 30 percent to 116,337 mt, while value increased 44 percent to $545.9 million.

US lamb export value in June increased $2.6 million, or 2 percent, despite a decline in volume (986 mt, -30 percent). For the first half of 2014, lamb export volume and value were lower -- 5,461 mt, -25 percent and $13.8 million, -12 percent, respectively.