WASHINGTON –February US pork and beef export numbers fell below 2018 levels, according to the latest report issued by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork export volume was down 9 percent year-over-year in February to 186,745 metric tons (mt). Pork value also dropped 17 percent to $455.9 million. Through February, pork exports were 5 percent below the 2018 pace at 388,580 mt, and export value decreased 13 percent to $950 million.

Pork exports accounted for 24 percent of the total pork production in February and 21 percent for muscle cuts only. Both are down from 27.8 percent and 24 percent in 2018, respectively. Through February, the percentage of total pork production exported was lower year-over-year at 23.8 percent (26.1 percent in 2018) and 20.6 percent compared to 22.7 percent in 2018 for muscle cuts only. February export value averaged $45.12 per head slaughtered, which is up from January but down 21 percent from 2018.

Meanwhile, February beef exports declined 6 percent from a year ago to 94,885 mt, while export value was down 3 percent to $581.6 million.

The January-February exports were three percent below 2018 pace in volume at 199,651 mt but value remained steady at $1.22 billion.

According to the USMEF, one of the factors for volume decline was lower exports to Hong Kong and Canada, since shipments to most other major beef countries trended higher this year.

Beef exports made up 12.8 percent of total beef production and 10.1 percent for muscle cuts only, which is down 13.6 percent and 10.8 percent from 2018. For the first two months of 2019, beef exports accounted for 12.5 percent of total production and 9.9 percent for muscle cuts only. Each category was down one-half percentage point from January and February of 2018.

“The stiff headwinds trade disputes have created for US pork exports have certainly not subsided,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “USMEF is encouraged by reports of progress toward resolution of these disputes, but in the meantime missed opportunities for export growth are mounting. On the beef side there is still much to be excited about, especially with the launch of US-Japan trade agreement talks. A great deal is at stake for both US beef and US pork in those negotiations, as exports to Japan deliver remarkable returns for the entire US supply chain and it is essential that we get back on a level playing field with our competitors.”

Lamb exports continued to climb in February with muscle cut growth in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Panama, and the Caribbean. February exports reached 1,361 mt up 51 percent from 2018. Export value was at $2.43 million, up 31 percent. In muscle cuts only, exports climbed 17 percent from 2018 in volume to 244 mt and 31 percent in value to $1.55 million.

With continued retaliatory duties, February pork exports to Mexico were down 13 percent with volume to 119, 430 mt compared to 2018. Export value dropped 32 percent from $171 million. The USMEF said the US is still Mexico’s primary pork supplier, but Canada, Chile and the European Union are starting to grab market share in 2019.

Demand for pork might swing up soon in China and Hong Kong due to the African swine fever (ASD) as buyers look toward a pork shortage. However, China’s retaliatory duties to ongoing trade disputes are making it difficult for the US industry. The duty rate on US pork is 62 percent, compared to 12 percent for other suppliers. Through February, exports to China/Hong Kong were down 22 percent from a year ago to 54,383 mt, with value dropping 34 percent to $108.2 million.

The US is also seeing a downward trend with exports of pork to Japan. USMEF reported that the numbers declined 9 percent from 2018 in volume 61,464 mt and 12 percent in value $248.7 million. Chilled pork exports to Japan were also down at 6 percent in both volume 34,685 mt and value $166 million.

For beef, exports remain strong to Japan in the first two months of the year with exports going 8 percent above the 2018 pace in volume at 47,695 mt and 10 percent higher in value $309.3 million.

Beef exports to Mexico were 13 percent above last year’s pace in volume (40,048 mt) and 13 percent higher in value ($197.9 million).