US meat exports remain strong despite higher pork prices and tight supplies of beef.

WASHINGTON – Year-over-year export volumes for beef and pork declined in July, the first time export volumes slowed this year, the US Meat Export Federation reported. But the pace of exports remains strong.

Beef exports dropped 15 percent in volume in July to 101,799 metric tons (mt), while export values were steady at $621.7 million. Beef export volumes from January through July (at 687,752 mt) maintained a 4 percent lead over year-ago totals and remained on a record pace in value ($3.89 billion).

Pork export volumes slipped 3 percent in July to 173,270 mt, while value gained 14 percent to $573.5 million, USMEF reported. Exports from January through July established a record pace in both volume (1.32 million mt) and value ($4.0 billion) — the first time export value has exceeded $4 billion before August.

Asia continues to be a key market for US beef exports, according to USMEF. Beef exports for January through July were equal to 14 percent of total production and 11 percent for muscle cuts only. Export prices per head of fed cattle was $298.56 in July, down slightly compared to June but more than $25 higher year-over-year.

“Demand for US beef in Asian markets has continued to strengthen this year, adding further value to cuts that are popular there and underutilized domestically,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “With our limited supplies, competition for these cuts among Asian buyers contributes greatly to US cattle prices. USMEF continues to work with our industry partners to educate the trade about alternative cuts and merchandising ideas, so that we can deliver value to our Asian customers even in these times of historically tight supplies.”

Pork export volumes declined, but values for pork gained on higher prices.

High prices didn't dampen pork exports. Tailwinds for US pork exports included high domestic pork prices in most regions other than Europe and China. Pork exports from January through July were equal to 28 percent of total production and 23 percent for muscle cuts only – each up 2 percentage points from a year ago, USMEF reported. July export value per head of slaughter declined to $67.81 – down from its record high in June but still up 23 percent compared to a year ago. January-July export value jumped 21 percent to $64.45.

“Pork exports have overcome some severe price disadvantages this year, especially in Asian markets where we compete head-to-head with European pork,” Seng said. “US prices began to moderate in August, so these price gaps have now been narrowed or eliminated. Going forward, this should relieve some of the price pressure on US exporters.”

Lamb exports climbed higher in July but were still lower year-over-year, according to USMEF calculations. July lamb exports advanced 3 percent in volume to 942 mt, while export values came in just under $3 million — the highest monthly value of the year for US lamb exports.

However, lamb exports from January through July remained down 22 percent in volume and 5 percent in value.

Demand for US lamb climbed in the Caribbean, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Panama, offsetting lower totals for Canada, according to USMEF.