WASHINGTON – Pork and beef exports continued to show strong demand in February, despite the rise of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF). 

Pork exports surged 46% to 273,056 tonnes for February, according to US Department of Agriculture data compiled by the USMEF. Pork value was up 59% to $726.6 million, which only trailed the volume and value totals from December 2019 and January 2020. For the first two months of the year, pork exports went up 41% in volume to 546,659 tonnes and 54% in value with $1.47 billion. 

Pork exports accounted for just under 33% of total February pork production and nearly 30% for muscle cuts only. Those numbers are the highest on record and much higher than the 2019 figures, 24% and 21%, respectively, according to USMEF. Through February, the percentage of total pork production exported was up to 31.3% and 28.6% for muscle cuts only. 

Pork export value per head slaughtered was $67.77 in February, which is up 50% from 2019 and is the highest since 2014. Through the first two months, the per-head average was up 45% to $65.02.

Meanwhile, US beef exports also showed strong growth by increasing 18% from 2019 to 112,021 tonnes. Export value also climbed by 17% to $681 million.

During the last two months, beef exports showed a 10% volume increase compared to 2019 at 219,395 tonnes and 11% more in value ($1.35 billion).

Beef exports made up 15.3% of total February beef production, which is up from 13.9% a year ago and 12.4% for muscle cuts only, up from 11% last year. 

In the last two months, beef exports were slightly above 2019 levels going up to 14.1% of total beef production and 11% for muscle cuts only. Last year it was 13.5% from total production and 10.7 % were muscle cuts only.

Dan Halstrom, USMEF chief executive officer, said February export numbers show that demand for meat remains strong as the world deals with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

“By February, COVID-19 had emerged as a major health concern in several key Asian markets and was certainly impacting consumer and business activity, so it is great to see US pork and beef exports achieve such strong growth,” Halstrom said. “Obviously these are uncertain economic times and the road ahead remains very challenging, but these results are really a great testament to our international customer base. In the face of unprecedented obstacles, importers, retailers and restaurateurs are finding creative ways to meet consumer needs, and with record production the US industry is well-positioned as a supplier.”

China/Hong Kong remained large pork export customers in February. USMEF posted high volume numbers at 98,847 tonnes, while export value more than quadrupled to $243.2 million. In the first two months of the year, exports increased 260% from 2019 to 195,849 tonnes and jumped 352% in value to $488.5 million. 

In Mexico, February pork exports went up 16% to 61,693 tonnes with value increasing 43% to 107.6 million. The first two months of the year showed exports to Mexico increase by 11% in volume (132,153 tonnes) and 41% in value ($242.3 million) compared to 2019. 

For beef exports, Japan showed strong numbers with an increase of 24% compared to last year at 27,099 tonnes. It also jumped 20% in value to $171.4 million. Through the first two months, exports exceeded the 2019 pace by 10% in volume (52,304 tonnes) and 7% in value ($329.5 million). USMEF said new trade deals with Japan helped numbers increase with another tariff reduction on April 1.

Beef in South Korea was also up to 33% in volume at 23,532 mt. Value went up 32% as well to $167.7 million. This pushed the two-month total 16% ahead of last year’s record pace in volume (41,326 tonnes) and 14% higher in value ($298.4 million). US beef is also gaining further market share in Korea, with strong retail demand and increased sales through e-commerce platforms.

Lamb exports showed a decline in its biggest exported Mexico as volume went down by 65% (476 tonnes). Value was 45% lower at ($1.3 million) Through February, exports were down 48% in volume (1,435 tonnes) and 25% in value ($3.4 million).