DENVER — After strong numbers in 2022, US pork exports maintained early momentum in January 2023 according to data compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) from the US Department of Agriculture.

For pork exports, volume was up 13% from a year ago to 236,767 tonnes as export value reached $643.4 million, up 16% compared to the same month in 2022.

USMEF noted that US exports to Mexico set another volume record in January after a strong finish to the end of 2022. Exports also trended significantly higher year-over-year to China/Hong Kong, Japan, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Honduras and the ASEAN region.

“While Mexico is certainly the pacesetter for US pork exports, it’s encouraging to see such broad-based growth,” said Dan Halstrom, president and chief executive officer of USMEF. “Market diversification is always a point of emphasis for the US industry, and it’s more important than ever to find new opportunities for US pork in both established and emerging markets.”

Meanwhile, beef exports numbers have slowed recently after a record-breaking 2022.  

Total beef exports for the month of January came in at 100,942 tonnes with export volume down 15% from a year ago. The export value of beef exports for the month was $702.3 million, a decrease of 32%.

USMEF noted that beef inventories swelled in some key markets near the end of last year, contributing to a challenging environment for US exports.

“While beef exports are off to a slow start in 2023, we remain optimistic that post-COVID foodservice demand will strengthen in additional markets as the year progresses,” Halstrom said.

January reports showed that beef exports declined in several major destinations with shipments increasing to Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and Africa.

For January, Mexican pork exports remained strong at 96,800 tonnes up 11% from 2022. Export was valued at $191.2 million, which was up 40%. USMEF said the tight US labor situation makes Mexico an attractive market for bone-in hams for further processing. 

Beef exports to China/Hong Kong decreased in the first month of 2023. In January, exports topped 14,980 tonnes, a 24% decrease from 2021. Export value is also at $125.3 million.

“China lifted COVID-related restrictions on residents and travelers late last year and eliminated testing and disinfection of imported cold chain products in January,” USMEF said. “But these changes came amid a significant wave in COVID cases, which likely delayed any boost in consumer demand.”

Pork exports to Japan in January were at 28,476 tonnes, up 8%. Value also decreased 2% to $115.7 million.

January exports of US lamb muscle cuts totaled 222 tonnes, up 161% from the low year-ago volume, while export value essentially doubled to $1.1 million, up 99%.