WASHINGTON – The January 2019 numbers reported by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) showed beef exports continuing to stay high, but pork value is still trying to find its footing with the ongoing retaliatory tariffs with Mexico, China and Japan. 

Pork exports were down 1 percent year-over-year in January to 201,835 metric tons (mt), with value dropping 9 percent to $494.1 million. Pork export value averaged $44.75 per head of fed slaughter, down 12 percent year-over-year. The USMEF report said the pork exports accounted for 23.6 percent of total January production, down from 24.7 percent in 2018. For muscle cuts only the data showed 20.3 percent, down from 21.5 percent.  

“Trade barriers in these large, mainstay markets are very unsettling for major customers of US pork and are hurting the entire US supply chain, so it is essential that they are addressed in a timely manner,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “On a positive note, the US industry’s longstanding efforts to expand and diversify international destinations for US pork have never been more important, and it is gratifying to see impressive growth in many of our emerging and developing markets.”

Meanwhile, exports of US beef dropped slightly by 1 percent to 104,766 mt compared with a year ago, USMEF reported. However, value still increased to 3 percent and $642.3 million. Beef export value remained strong at $284.86 per head of fed slaughter. Even with the strong results it was down 3 percent from 2018.

January exports accounted for 12.2 percent of total beef production and 9.7 percent of muscle cuts only, which were both down from 12.4 and 10.1 percent respectively year-over-year.

Variety meats reported strong starts to the year with beef meat exports totaling 26,630 mt in January, which is up 7 percent from 2018 and valued at $81.8 million (up 19 percent).

For pork variety meat exports, the USMEF said numbers increased 5 percent from 2018 to 41,143 mt led by increases in Mexico, Japan, Central and South America and Taiwan. However, value still remained down 11 percent to $81 million because of China, the leading market for US pork variety meat remaining subject to the country’s 50 percent retaliatory measures.

Beef exports to leading market Japan totaled 25,925 mt in January, up 8 percent from a year ago. It was also a 12 percent increase in value to $167 million. January was the first full month in which competitors of US beef received tariff relief in Japan under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The import duty rate also dropped from 38.5 to 27.5 percent on Dec. 30, 2018. This gap will widen further on April 1, when the rate for CPTPP countries drops to 26.6 percent.

“It’s great to see Japan’s demand for US beef increase in January despite these tariff rate changes for our major competitors,” Halstrom said. “But this disadvantage will become more and more pronounced over time, so negotiations toward a US-Japan trade agreement cannot come soon enough. The playing field needs to be leveled as quickly as possible so that the US industry can continue to capitalize on booming meat demand in Japan.”

Exports of US lamb in January climbed 87 percent to 1,384 mt from the same time in 2018. Export value also increased 45 percent to $2.14 million. For muscle cuts only, exports climbed 94 percent from a year ago in volume to 244 mt and value went up 49 percent to $1.17 million.