WASHINGTON – May US pork and beef export numbers showed some mixed results compared to recent months, according to the latest report issued by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork exports remained steady with last year’s pace in May and finished at 217,999 metric tons (mt). Pork value was up 1 percent to $567.8 million, which is the highest monthly value since April 2018. Through May, pork exports were down 4 percent compared to the 2018 pace of 1.035 million mt. Export values also decreased by 10 percent to $2.57 billion. 

Pork exports accounted for 27.3 percent of total pork production and 23.2 percent for muscle cuts only, which is down from 27.8 and 24 percent respectively. Through May, the percentage of total pork production exported was lower year-over-year at 25.4 percent (27.5 percent in 2018) and 22.1 percent for muscle cuts (down from 23.7 percent). Pork export value averaged $54.83 per head slaughtered in May, the highest monthly average since May 2018 ($55.05).

Meanwhile, US beef exports also remained steady compared to 2018 with 117, 541 mt in volume while export value increased by 1 percent to $727.6 million, which is the second-highest on record trailing August 2018 of $751.7 million. Additionally, beef exports lost 3 percent on last year’s record pace in volume (530,088 mt), but the value was only down slightly ($3.3 billion) during the period of January through May.

Beef exports made up for 14.6 percent of the total beef production in May, which is down slightly from 2018. For muscle cuts only, the percentage exported was 12 percent. For the first five months of 2019, beef exports accounted for 14 percent of total production (down from 14.6 percent) and 11.3 percent for muscle cuts (down from 11.9 percent). May export value averaged $312.85 per head slaughtered, down slightly from a year ago.

Lamb exports remained strong in May with variety of meat demand in Mexico. In total May exports reached 1,310 mt up 31 percent from 2018. Export value was at $2.3 million, up 30 percent. For the first five months of the year, exports were 51 percent above last year’s numbers at 6,710 mt. and 26 percent above value with $11.5 million.

Although there has been some progress on retaliatory duties during the last few months, May pork exports to Mexico remained down 26 percent from 2018 in volume to 52,555 mt and 15 percent down in value to $98.4 million. From January to May, Mexican exports were also down 19 percent in volume (284,946 mt) and 27 percent in value ($454.9 million).

Despite the ongoing 50 percent retaliatory duty on most US pork shipped to China, pork exports to China/Hong Kong increased 33 percent from 2018 in volume to 45,442 mt, while value increased 5 percent to $84 million. In the first five months of this year, exports are still trailing behind last year with 7 percent shortage in volume (173,642 mt) and 25 percent in value ($326 million).

Japan remains a steady trading partner with May pork exports increasing to 5 percent in volume to 36,373 mt and 3 percent in value $148.6 million, which is the highest in 18 months.

“May export results for U.S. pork were very encouraging, especially the renewed momentum in Japan and China/Hong Kong,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “When exports to Mexico get back on track and trade talks with Japan and China show progress, this will be a very welcome lift for the US pork industry.”

The USMEF also mentioned that US competitors in beef and pork received tariff relief in Japan through the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the economic partnership between Japan and the European Union. The group said that red meat trade would be a major focus in the ongoing US-Japan trade negotiations and the US’ negotiations with China.  

During continuing discussions, May beef exports to Japan were slightly below 2018 levels, but continued to rebound to 29,749 mt and 10 percent lower in value at $190.8 million.

Beef exports to Mexico were 2 percent below last year’s pace in volume (97,102 mt) and 8 percent lower in value ($462.1 million).

South Korea remained a strong beef trader rising 11 percent to 23,004 mt and 12 percent in value to $165 million. Beef exports to Taiwan also strengthened for the second straight month in May at 5,873 mt (up 27 percent from a year ago), valued at $52.6 million (up 28 percent).

“The explosive growth US beef has achieved in Korea and Taiwan is a testament to the quality of the product and the outstanding customer base the US industry has established over the years,” Halstrom said. “That same dynamic is present in Japan, on an even larger scale. But for Japan to remain the ‘strong growth’ column, it is essential that we have market access comparable to our key competitors.”