WASHINGTON – March showed strong numbers for red meat exports across the board, the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) reported. 

March beef export volume climbed to 111,994 metric tons which is up 6 percent from a year ago. Export value was $693.1 million, an 18 percent increase. Exports of beef accounted for 13.2 percent of total production in March and 10.7 percent for muscle cuts only.

From January through March, beef exports were 9 percent ahead of the 2017 pace in volume (318,073 metric tons) and jumped 19 percent in value ($1.92 billion).

Beef export value averaged $332.89 per head of fed slaughter, up 23 percent year-over-year. 

Beef exports to Japan, a leading market for the US, were steady with last year’s pace at 28,158 mt, while value increased 6 percent to $177.5 million. From January to March, exports to Japan were down 3 percent in volume (72,440 mt) but still increased 8 percent in value ($459.5 million). 

March was the final month in which the higher safeguard tariff rate (50 percent versus the normal 38.5 percent) was applied to Japan’s imports of frozen US beef. The higher rate took effect in August and expired on April 1 with the beginning of the new Japanese fiscal year. 

"While beef exports to Japan held up well during those eight months, the higher tariff rate certainly weighed on exports of frozen cuts such as short plate," explained USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “US short plate is an essential ingredient for Japan’s gyudon restaurants, which are part of a highly competitive fast-casual dining sector. We are pleased to have the higher safeguard tariff rate behind us, though US beef still faces a widening tariff rate gap in Japan compared to Australian beef, and US beef remains subject to Japan’s quarterly safeguard mechanisms for chilled and frozen imports. USMEF continues to monitor this situation, and we are hopeful that the frozen beef safeguard will not be triggered this year.” 

Beef exports to Mexico were steady with 2017 in volume at 57,039 mt and climbed 10 percent in value to $250.3 million. Mexico is the leading volume destination for US beef variety meat, including tripe, hearts, kidneys and livers. While first-quarter variety meat exports to Mexico declined 4 percent in volume (25,921 mt), they still achieved a 17 percent increase in value to $60.5 million.

Pork export volume was steady in March as it moved to 227,363 metric tons (mt). Pork export value went up 4 percent to $610.4 million. This trailed only the November 2017 record of $615.8 million. For the January through March quarter, volume increased 1 percent year-over-year to 636,297 metric tons, while value was up 8 percent to $1.7 billion.

Pork exports accounted for 27.5 percent of total pork production, down from 28 percent in 2017. Muscle cut only export increased slightly to 23.5 percent. First-quarter exports followed a similar pattern, accounting for 26.6 percent of total production (down from 27 percent a year ago) and 23 percent for muscle cuts only (up from 22.6 percent).  

March pork exports to Mexico, the leading volume destination, were below last year’s level in volume (66,136 mt, down 4 percent) and value ($120.3 million, down 5 percent). For the first quarter, exports were down just 1 percent from last year’s record pace in volume (203,656 mt) and were steady in value at $371.3 million. 

Exports to Japan, the leading value market for US pork, followed similar trends as March. Exports slowed 10 percent in volume (33,969 mt) and 11 percent in value ($138.6 million). But for January through March, exports to Japan were steady in volume at 101,435 mt and increased 2 percent in value to $419.7 million.

Lamb exports were lower in March as volume was 845 mt, which is down from 9 percent in 2017. The $2 million export value was down 10 percent from last year as well. However, from January through March exports climbed 15 percent in volume at 2,484 mt and 8 percent in value for $5.4 million.