DENVER – US beef exports maintained a notable pace in April, topping $1 billion for the third time this year, according to data compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“Global demand for US beef continues to overcome enormous obstacles, from inflationary pressure to logistical challenges to the recent lockdowns in some of China’s major metropolitan areas,” said Dan Halstrom, president and chief executive officer of USMEF. “Most encouraging is that even as beef exports climb to unprecedented levels in our largest Asian markets, demand is strengthening in other regions as well, fueled by a strong rebound in the foodservice sector.”

Total beef exports for the month of April came in at 124,408 tonnes — the fifth largest on record — with export volume up 33% from a year ago. The export value reached $1.05 billion for beef — second only to the record of $1.07 billion posted in March. It also increased 3% from 2021. 

For pork exports, volume dropped 21% from a year ago to 212,876 tonnes as export value reached $600.6 million, down 20% compared to the same month last year. 

Halstrom noted that, despite recent obstacles, US exports are likely to increase or remain status quo. 

“The sharp decline in China’s demand for imported pork continues to weigh heavily on the year-over-year results for US exports, and the COVID lockdowns dampened demand even further by limiting consumer spending and slowing activity in the wholesale market and the meat processing sector,” he said. “We do expect exports to China to regain some momentum in the fourth quarter of this year — certainly not back to the peak volumes of 2020 but improving over current levels. Meanwhile shipments to Mexico remain on a record pace and exports to Japan and several Latin American markets trended higher in April.”

Halstrom cautioned that April results did not capture the full impact of recent COVID-19 lockdowns in China. The pressure inflation imposes on consumers’ discretionary income and the rising strength of the US dollar versus some key trading partner currencies are also growing headwinds for US red meat exports.

Beef exports to China/Hong Kong continued to increase in April. Exports topped 23,137 tonnes, an 11% increase from 2021. Export value is also at $212.7 million, which is up 27%. 

For April, Mexican pork exports remained strong at 73,711 tonnes, up from 9% in 2021. Export value dipped down 2% to $139.7 million. 

Pork exports to Japan in April were at 34,682 tonnes, up 5% and the largest since May 2021. Value also increased 5%, reaching a 2022 high of $142.5 million.

Lamb showed January exports 37% above 2021 pace at 1,493 tonnes, which drove value up 90% to $2.56 million.