WASHINGTON- Beef export values set another record in March according to data released by the USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Export values increased by 33% over last year, totaling $1.07 billion for the month.

Beef export volume also increased by 1% over last year, to a total of 126,285 tonnes in March. USMEF said that was the third-largest month on record. 

First-quarter export volume increased 6% to 353,852 tonnes with a value of just over $3 billion, which was up 41%.

“Global demand for US beef has eclipsed anything I have seen in many years in the meat business," said Dan Halstrom, president of USMEF. "While this momentum is fueled by mainstay markets such as South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, demand is also very strong in China/Hong Kong and key Latin American markets, while exports to the Middle East have rebounded impressively." 

However, Halstrom said that first quarter results do not fully reflect the impact of recent COVID-19 lockdowns in China that have slowed product movement and forced many restaurants to suspend or limit service. 

He noted that those impending obstacles are likely to have a greater impact on April and May data. Halstrom added that inflation could also be a headwind for the rest of the year. 

"Consumers throughout the world have shown how much they value the quality of US beef, but disposable income is under increasing pressure as they pay more for energy and other daily needs," he said. 

Meanwhile, US pork showed the largest numbers so far in 2022, but it was still well below the record-high totals in March 2021. 

Pork exports in March were down nearly 25% at 222,581 tonnes, while export value fell 23% to $615.3 million. Through the first four months, exports also fell 20% in volume at 629,928 tonnes and 17% in value for $1.71 billion.

"While pork exports were down significantly from last year's record, we saw some encouraging trends in the March results," Halstrom said. "US pork commanded a higher price per pound than a year ago, with outstanding demand from Mexico and value growth in key markets such as South Korea and the Dominican Republic. The stronger US dollar creates more price pressure in some destinations, but this will be offset to some degree by the narrowing price gap between US and European pork." 

US pork exports to China/Hong Kong fell 56% compared to 2021, to about 104,286 tonnes valued at almost $279 million (a decline of 48%). 

Beef exports to China continued on a strong trajectory in March, with volumes of 22,745 tonnes (up 11%) valued at $207.7 million (up 26%).

In the first quarter, Mexican pork exports soared at 243,314 tonnes up 30% from 2021. Value increased 17% to $404.2 million. 

Following strong numbers in February, pork exports to Japan in March were disappointing. In fact, in the first quarter, exports to Japan were down 13% to 91,234 tonnes, valued at $392.5 million (down 10%). 

Logistical challenges compounded by lower-priced offerings from competitors made it difficult for US pork.

March beef exports to Japan were down 10% to 25,690 tonnes, but value jumped 17% to $212.6 million.

Lamb numbers for March showed exports up 75% above the 2021 pace at 1,906 tonnes, which doubled value to $2.88 million.  This is the largest volume since 2011 and the third largest on record.