DENVER – June proved to be another strong month for beef and pork exports according to the data released by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

At more than 115,718 metric tons (mt), beef exports volume in June was up 6 percent. The June exports were valued at $718.4 million up 19 percent from 2017 and only slightly below the record of $722 million set in May 2018.

For the first six months of 2018, exports set a record pace both in volume and value. USMEF said that international customers bought a larger share of US beef production at higher prices, indicating strong demand.

Through June, beef exports jumped 9 percent in volume at more than 662,875 metric tons while values topped $4 billion year to date, a 21 percent increase. In previous years, export value never topped the $4 billion mark before August.

"It's remarkable to think that as recently as 2010, beef exports for the entire year totaled $4 billion, and now that milestone has been reached in just six months," said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO. "This should be a source of great pride for the beef industry, which has remained committed to expanding exports even when facing numerous obstacles. And with global demand hitting on all cylinders, there is plenty of room for further growth."

Beef exports accounted for 13.4 percent of total production (up from 12.8 percent) and 11.3 percent for muscle cuts (up from just under 10 percent in 2017). June beef export value averaged $313.56 per head of fed slaughter, up 19 percent from a year ago. The first-half average was $316.94 per head, up 18 percent.

After setting new records in April, pork exports were lower than a year ago for the second straight month in June. USMEF stated the main cause of this was lower exports to the China/Hong Kong region.

Due to the ongoing tariffs placed on goods by the Trump Administration, exporters have been placing tariffs of their own on the US.

On April 2, the import duty on US pork and pork variety meats entering China increased by 25 percent. On July 6, the rate increased to 62 percent.

"Pork exports – and especially variety meats – face a very challenging environment in China/Hong Kong due not only to retaliatory duties but also because of increasing domestic production in China," Halstrom said. "On the positive side, exports are achieving solid growth in most other markets and reached new heights in destinations such as Korea and Latin America. So there is no time to dwell on factors the US industry cannot control – we must continue to find new opportunities in both established and emerging markets."

For the Chinese market, pork exports fell below average due to the additional 25 percent tariff. June exports to China and Hong Kong were down 37 percent from 2018 with 28,569 mt. Export value dropped 19 percent ($70.9 million) in the same category. For the first five months, exports to China were 21 percent lower than 2017’s pace in volume (216,008 mt) and down 9 percent in value to $507.2 million. On the Chinese June beef exports, volume increased 15 percent with 65,345 mt and 43 percent higher in value at $510.8 million.

In total, Pork exports in June totaled at 191,303 mt, up 4.5 percent over last year at an export value of $510.4 million (a 4.5 percent decrease).

Pork still had a strong first half of 2018 with pork export volumes reached 1.27 million mt valued at $3.36 billion, increases of 2 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

Pork exports accounted for 26.4 percent of total production, down from 27.1 percent in 2018. The muscle cut number increased from 22.2 percent to 22.8 percent.

Through June, exports equaled 27.3 percent of total pork production (down from 27.8 percent in 2017) and 23.6 percent for muscle cuts (up from 23.1 percent). June pork export value averaged $55.13 per head slaughtered, slightly down from a year ago. The first-half average was $55.18 per head, up 2 percent.

Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs on US pork went into effect in June, meaning January-May results were not impacted directly. On June 5, Mexico imposed a 10 percent duty on fresh/frozen pork muscle cuts from the United States, and the rate increased to 20 percent on July 5. Also in June, Mexico imposed a 15 percent duty on US pork sausages and a 20 percent duty on some prepared hams (these rates did not increase July 5) and opened a duty-free quota aimed at attracting imports from non-US suppliers.

With all these factors, June pork exports to Mexico decreased 7 percent from 2017 in volume to 59,967 metric tons which dropped 16 percent in export value to $105.1 million. Despite these tariffs export for January through June, exports to Mexico were 4 percent above 2017 volume record pace at 413,231 metric tons. However, value slipped 1 percent to $726.1 million. On the Mexican beef exports side, volume increased 2 percent with 117.534 mt and 10 percent higher in value at $506.7 million.

Lamb exports were up 58 percent from a year ago with 1,016 metric tons making it the largest volume increase of 2018. Exports through June were increased 46 percent in volume (5,471 metric tons) and rose 17 percent in value to $11.3 million.