Pork and Beef exports finished 2016 with a strong performance.

WASHINGTON – Exports of US beef and pork products finished 2016 on a high note as pork exports reached record volumes while beef exports logged the largest monthly volume in December, the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) reported.

Pork export volume reached a record 2.31 million metric tons (mt) in 2016, up 8 percent year-over-year and 2 percent above the previous high in 2012, according to USMEF. Export value climbed 7 percent from a year ago to $5.94 billion. For December, pork exports totaled 222,635 mt, an 18 percent year-over-year increase, valued at $564.2 million, which represents a 20 percent increase.

For 2016, exports accounted for 25.8 percent of total pork production and 21.5 percent for muscle cuts – up from 24.2 percent and 20.8 percent, respectively, from a year ago. In December, the figures were 28 percent for total production and 23 percent for muscle cuts only — a significant improvement compared to December 2015, USMEF said. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $50.20 in 2016, up 4 percent from the previous year. The December average was $56.06, up 24 percent.

Mexico continued to be a significant market for US pork exports, USMEF noted, with a record-breaking 730,316 mt, 2 percent higher than the previous record.  The value of US pork exports to Mexico totaled $1.36 billion, a 7 percent year-over-year increase and the second-highest on record, trailing only the $1.56 billion mark reached in 2014, according to USMEF.

“At this time of record-large pork production, it would be hard to overstate the importance of Mexican demand to the US industry,” Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO, said in a statement. “This is especially true for hams, as we are locked out of Russia — once a large destination for US hams — and China’s demand for imported hams has moderated in recent months. So now more than ever, we need strong demand from our key customers in Mexico, and they have responded with extraordinary results. December exports to Mexico accounted for nearly $16 per head, and that’s absolutely critical to the entire US pork supply chain.”

US pork exports to China dipped slightly in 2016, however December pork exports to China/Hong Kong remained 40 percent higher year-over-year in volume at 47,242 mt and 42 percent higher in value at $96 million.

For the full year, exports to China/Hong set a new volume record of 544,943 mt, up 61 percent and broke the $1 billion mark for the first time by climbing 53 percent to $1.07 billion, USMEF reported.

Demand for beef in Asian markets drove growth in US beef exports. For the year, exports of beef advanced 11 percent in volume to 1.19 million mt and 1 percent in value to $6.34 billion compared to 2015. For December, exports totaled 116,847 mt, a 24 percent increase year-over-year. USMEF said this was the largest monthly volume since July 2013 and the largest ever for December. Export value jumped 22 percent to $619.1 million in December.

Exports in 2016 accounted for 13.7 percent of total beef production and 10.5 percent for muscle cuts, which represents increases of 13.1 percent and 10 percent, respectively, compared to 2015. December exports accounted for 15.6 percent of total December beef production and 12.1 percent for muscle cuts only, USMEF.  Each segment increased more than 2 percentage points from a year ago and was the highest since 2011. Export value per head of fed slaughter declined 6 percent to an average of $262.17. But the December average was $301.97 — up 14 percent and the highest in nearly two years, according to USMEF.

US beef exports achieved new value records in South Korea and Taiwan in 2016, and rebounded strongly in Japan thanks to strong demand for higher-value chilled cuts.

USMEF said December beef exports to Korea soared by 81 percent in volume at 20,333 mt and 88 percent in value at $130 million compared to a year ago.

For the year, exports advanced 42 percent in volume to 179,280 mt with a value of $1.06 billion – up 31 percent from a year ago and breaking the previous value record by more than 20 percent, USMEF said. The United States gained market share and capitalized on the overall growth in Korea’s market for beef as the country’s per capita beef consumption set a new record of 34 lbs. (carcass weight) in 2016.

Meanwhile, the value of beef exports to Taiwan reached the highest level ever in December, with export at $43.3 million. Full-year exports to Taiwan advanced 25 percent in volume to 44,053 mt and 14 percent in value to $362.8 million, USMEF reported.

Full-year exports to Japan were the largest of the post-BSE era at 258,653 mt, an increase of 26 percent year-over-year. Export value totaled $1.51 billion, up 18 percent. Chilled beef exports to Japan jumped 44 percent to 112,334 mt.

“In addition to the strength of the US dollar, US beef overcame other severe challenges in these north Asian markets and achieved remarkable results,” Seng noted. “Despite facing higher tariff rates in Japan compared to Australian beef, US beef displaced its competition and won back significant market share. And the investment the US industry made to rebuild consumer confidence in Korea is paying tremendous dividends, especially in the retail sector. We’re seeing US beef featured regularly by retailers who were once reluctant to carry the product.”