WASHINGTON – Global demand for US beef continued to show strong numbers in February, according to data compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) from the US Department of Agriculture.

However, pork exports continued to trend lower compared to 2021 after shipments to Mexico and Japan did not offset the decline in demand from China/Hong Kong.

“Rarely have we seen so many outside forces creating headwinds for US meat exports and such uncertainty in the global marketplace,” said Dan Halstrom, president and chief executive officer of USMEF. “Yet consumer demand for high-quality beef, pork and lamb has proven resilient, and USMEF sees opportunities for further growth in both established and emerging markets.”

Beef exports, which totaled approximately 108,501 tonnes in February, reflected a 5% increase from last year and an increase of 35% in value to $904.4 million. During the first two months of 2022, exports increased 9% to 227,567 tonnes, with value up 46% to $1.93 billion.

“Broad-based growth has become a recurring theme for US beef exports, as international demand has never been higher and global supplies remain tight,” Halstrom said. “We anticipated a lift from COVID-related foodservice restrictions being eased in many destinations. This materialized late last year and in early 2022, although conditions still vary by country. While lockdowns in China/Hong Kong are certainly a setback for foodservice demand, those are the main exceptions as most countries have shifted to more of a living-with-COVID approach.”

Meanwhile, pork exports did not fare well in the first two months of the year being down 17% at 198,539 tonnes, while export value fell 14% to $541.3 million. Through February, exports also fell 17% in volume at 407,347 tonnes and 14% in value for $1.1 billion.

Logistical challenges compounded by lower-priced offerings from competitors made it difficult for US pork. USMEF added that suppliers are shipping significantly lower volumes to China/Hong Kong which pushed more product into other markets at reduced prices.

“European hog prices jumped sharply in March, climbing about 35% compared to February,” Halstrom explained. “While this came too late to impact our February export results, it could lead to more favorable market conditions going forward.”

US Pork exports to China/Hong Kong fell 54% compared to last year, to about 68,420 tonnes valued at almost $185.5 million (a decline of 44%). 

“China’s COVID restrictions on imported meat have also added further costs and limited new sales opportunities,” USMEF added. “The region is still the dominant destination for US pork variety meat.” 

Beef exports to China continued on a strong trajectory in February, with volumes of 39,492 tonnes (up 56%) valued at $374.8 million (up 87%).

In the first two months, Mexican pork exports remained steady at 73,939 tonnes up 30% from 2021. Value increased 14% to $118.6 million. 

Pork exports to Japan in February were at 32,712 tonnes which was up 3% from 2021. Value still increased slightly to $139.8 million.  

February beef exports to Japan were down 5% to 23,553 tonnes, but value jumped 21% to just under $200 million. 

Lamb numbers for February showed exports up 37% above the 2021 pace at 1,580 tonnes, which put value up 62% to $2.56 million.