DENVER – U.S. pork and beef exports finished the first half of 2010 with strong momentum, thanks to a very solid June performance.

Pork exports of 164,000 metric tons (361.6 million lbs.) were 24% higher than June 2009, according to statistics released by U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Pork export value was $316.4 million, up 34%. June beef exports were 25% above year-ago volumes, totaling 96,578 metric tons (212.9 million lbs.), while the value in June was up 37% to $377.6 million.

For the first six months of the year, pork exports were 3% above their year-ago pace in terms of volume (951,803 metric tons or 2.1 billion lbs.). But with much-improved pork prices, export value was nearly 10% higher at $2.35 billion. This is even slightly higher than the value reached in the first half of 2008 ($2.32 billion), the year in which pork export value set an all-time record.

Export value per head during the six-month period was more than $44 – up significantly from $39.20 in 2009. The industry exported 24% of its total production, compared to 23% last year.

Beef export volume reached 495,443 metric tons (1.09 billion lbs.), up 14% over the first half of 2009. Export value has fared even better, rising 22% to $1.83 billion. Export value per steer and heifer slaughtered was $139, compared to less than $115 last year. The percentage of total production exported increased from 10% to 11%.

Through June, pork export volume to Mexico reached 269,598 metric tons (594.4 million lbs.), a 7% increase over the first half of 2009. At the same time, pork export value has been especially strong, rising 31% to $482.5 million.

Throughout the first half of 2010, Mexico has been the only major market in which U.S. beef exports have trailed last year's pace. That trend continued through June, with exports to Mexico trailing January-June 2009 totals by 24% in terms of both volume (117,196 metric tons or 258.4 million lbs.) and value ($380.4 million). Exports to Mexico have shown recent signs of improvement, however, with weekly export data for the last three weeks of July and the first week of August exceeding year-ago volumes.

Canada, the No. 2 market for U.S. beef, has been flat in terms of volume (70,957 metric tons or 156.4 million lbs.) and 4% higher in value ($322 million) compared to the first half of 2009.

In South Korea, export volume is nearly double the pace of 2009 at 50,221 metric tons (110.7 million lbs.) and up nearly 130% in value to $225 million.

Despite the continued 20-month age restriction on eligible cattle, beef exports to Japan maintained their steady growth. Exports totaled 51,677 metric tons (113.9 million lbs.) valued at $270 million – an increase of 29% in both volume and value over the first half of 2009.