WASHINGTON – US beef and pork exports continued to move below 2018 levels in April according to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Beef exports totaled 105,241 metric tons (mt), down 5 percent from the same period a year ago and export value was only down slightly at $674.2 million. April exports of beef accounted for 12.5 percent of total US beef production and 10.2 percent of muscle cuts only. These numbers are down from 14.1 percent and 11.3 percent respectively from 2018.

For the January to April, beef exports totaled 412,547 mt, a 4 percent year-over-year decrease, valued at $2.58 billion which represents a 1 percent decrease. The first four months showed total production and muscle cuts only were 12.7 percent and 10.2 percent, which are down from 13.4 percent and 10.8 percent last year. In that same period, beef export value averaged $308.34 per head, which is down 3 percent from a year ago.

Beef exports to Japan, a leading market for the US where significant competitors gained tariff-related advantages, indicated that April exports were down 6 percent from 2018 in both volume (24,149 mt) and value ($156.8 million). However, export volume through April was with last year’s pace at 98,296 mt while value increased by 2 percent to $637.2 million.

US market share in Japan is still more than 41 percent, but this is down from nearly 45 percent in the first four months of 2017

“US beef is holding its own in Japan, but the April numbers are telling,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO. “With the April 1 rate cut, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and Mexican beef are now subject to a 26.6 percent duty while the rate for US beef remains at 38.5 percent. It is absolutely essential that the US secures an agreement that will level this playing field. US beef’s exceptional growth in Korea is a great example of what’s possible when tariffs are less of an obstacle.”

Beef exports to Mexico were strong according to the USMEF, especially with muscle cuts only. Muscle cut exports to Mexico increased 8 percent in volume (47,279 mt), they still achieved an 11 percent increase in value to $293.3 million. However, combined beef and beef variety meat exports through April were 2 percent below 2018’s pace at 76,870 mt. Still value increased 9 percent to $372.4 million.

Pork export volume declined in April as it moved to 216,757 mt, which is down 6 percent from a year ago. Pork export value also dipped 8 percent to $535.2 million. From January through April, volume decreased 6 percent year-over-year to 817,025 mt and was down 12 percent in value to just over $2 billion.

Pork exports accounted for 26.6 percent of total pork production in April and 23.3 percent for muscle cuts only. Both are down from 29.9 percent and 25.8 percent from April 2018. The first four months followed a similar pattern, accounting for 24.9 percent of total production (down from 27.4 percent a year ago) and 21.8 percent for muscle cuts only (down from 23.7 percent). 

Although a 20 percent retaliatory tariff was removed on most US pork entering Mexico starting May 20, it did not come in time to change the April pork export numbers. USMEF reported that April exports were down 30 percent from last year’s pace in volume (54,971 mt) and sank 29 percent in value at $94.5 million. For the January through April time period, Mexican exports were down 18 percent in volume to 232,391 mt and 29 percent in value to $356.5 million.

“Lifting of Mexico’s retaliatory duties was the most welcome news the US pork industry has received in a long time,” Halstrom said. “Now let’s hope the duty-free access US pork has enjoyed in Mexico since late May isn’t short-lived.”

Last week, President Trump said the US will impose a 5 percent tariff on all goods coming into the US from Mexico and gradually increase until the illegal immigration from Mexico stops. The tariff would take effect June 10 and increase to 25 percent by Oct. 1, but negotiations are ongoing and Mexico has not yet announced any retaliatory measures.

African Swine Fever (ASF) concerns remain high in China and Hong Kong which could mean the US could be exporting more to the country. However, US pork main competitors in Europe, Canada and Mexico are receiving the tariff relief so far this year. In the first four months, China/Hong Kong showed 16 percent lower volume at 128,200 mt and down 32 percent in value to $242 million.

Lamb exports totaled 1,227 mt, which is up 26 percent over 2018. Value was also up 15 percent to $2.2 million. From January through April exports climbed 56 percent in volume at 5,400 mt and 26 percent in value accounting for $9.1 million.