WASHINGTON – March proved to be another banner month for US pork exports with record production that led to volume and value, according to US Department of Agriculture data compiled by the USMEF.

“March export results were very solid, especially given the COVID-19 related headwinds facing customers in many international markets at that time,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Stay-at-home orders created enormous challenges for many countries’ foodservice sectors, several key currencies slumped against the US dollar and logistical obstacles surfaced in some key markets – yet demand for US red meat proved very resilient.”

Beef exports also trended higher in the first quarter, however, with recent temporary closures in US processing plants, the association said numbers could look different for April and May exports.

Halstrom remained optimistic for the outlook for the rest of 2020.

“These are truly unprecedented circumstances, creating an uncertain global business climate,” Halstrom explained. “The US meat industry has spent decades developing a loyal and well-informed customer base throughout the world, which has embraced the quality and value delivered by US red meat. Their commitment to US products during this crisis is much-appreciated.”

 Demand from China/Hong Kong showed major increases in US pork March exports but there was also significant increase in Mexico, Japan and Canada.

Pork exports surged 38% to 291,459 tonnes for March. This broke a previous record set in December 2019. Pork value was up 47% to $764.2 million. For the first quarter of the year, pork exports went up 40% in volume to 838,118 tonnes and 52% in value with $2.23 billion.

Pork exports accounted for just under 31.6% of total March pork production and 28.4% for muscle cuts only. Both numbers are up 6% from 2019, even as March production increased by 12%. Through March, the percentage of total pork production exported was up to 31.4% and 28.5% for muscle cuts only.

Pork export value per head slaughtered was $63.99 in February, up 32% from 2019. Through the first three months, the per-head average was up 40% to $64.66.

Meanwhile, US beef exports remain strong with solid grown in Japan thanks to reduced tariffs as well as sustained demand in South Korea, Mexico, Canada and Taiwan.

Beef exports for March increased 7% from 2019 to 115,308 tonnes. Export value also climbed by 4% to $702.2 million.

During the last two months, beef exports showed a 9% volume increase compared to 2019 at 334,703 tonnes and 8% more in value ($2.06 billion).

March beef exports accounted for 13.9% of total production and 11.3% for beef muscle cuts, down from 14.8% and 12%, respectively, a year ago. Beef exports made up 14% of total first quarter beef production and 11.4% for muscle cuts only.

Despite lockdowns during the first quarter, China’s demand for pork did not budge, mainly due to the pork shortage resulting from African swine fever still existing in the country.

USMEF posted high volume March numbers at 100,676 tonnes, while export pork value more than quadrupled to $235.9 million. In the first three months of the year, exports increased 231% from 2019 to 296,525 tonnes and jumped 321% in value to $724.5 million.

In Mexico, March pork exports went up 9% to 63,198 tonnes with value increasing 19% to 108 million. The first three months of the year showed exports to Mexico increase by 10% in volume (195,351 tonnes) and 34% in value ($350.2 million) compared to 2019.

For beef exports, Japan showed strong numbers with an increase of 16% compared to last year at 30,568 tonnes. It also jumped 13% in value to $193.9 million.

Through the first three months, exports exceeded the 2019 pace by 12% in volume (82,872 tonnes) and 9% in value ($523.4 million).

Beef in South Korea was also up to 10% in volume at 22,608 tonnes. Value was at $166.5 million. This pushed the three-month 14% increase in volume (63,934 tonnes) and 12% higher in value ($464.9 million).

Lamb exports went higher for the first time in 2020, reaching 1,849 tonnes and 29% increase in volume. Value was 13% lower at ($2.4 million). Through March, exports were down 21% in volume (3,284 tonnes) and 16% in value ($5.8 million).