WASHINGTON – US red meat exports had a record-setting year in 2011, and early indicators in 2012 are showing continued growth in the category, according to the US Meat Export Federation.

In January, pork exports rose sharply by 28 percent in volume and 43 percent in value, while beef exports were steady in volume but 14 percent higher in value, according to US Department of Agriculture statistics that USMEF compiled.

“There is a challenge to follow a very successful year like 2011 and sustain the momentum,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and chief executive officer. “The good news is that there are opportunities to expand the presence of US red meat by exploring new market niches as well as increasing access with several key trading partners.”

Pork sales to key export markets reached double or triple figures, according to USMEF. Sales surged 21 percent and 27 percent, respectively, in volume and value to Mexico; 88 percent and 158 percent to China; and 17 percent and 28 percent to Japan.

In January, the US exported 211,457 metric tons of pork valued at $566.9 million, which represents increases of 28 percent in volume and 43 percent in value.

“In some markets, such as Japan, we are reaching into new secondary markets and niches like the sozai [deli] segment,” Seng said. “In others, like South Korea, we’re focused on sustaining the progress we made last year and preparing for the imminent implementation of the Korea-US FTA. Korea has made significant progress in rebuilding their hog inventories so we expect total imports to decrease this year but the US will also gain a competitive edge against other suppliers through the FTA.”

Top pork export markets in January were:

  • Mexico: 60,737 metric tons (up 21 percent) valued at $110.3 million (up 27 percent)
  • Japan: 41,697 metric tons (up 17 percent) valued at $170.8 million (up 28 percent)
  • China: 36,175 metric tons (up 88 percent) valued at $75.1 million (up 158 percent)
  • Canada: 19,167 metric tons (up 47 percent) valued at $65.7 million (up 52 percent)
  • South Korea: 18,173 metric tons (up 38 percent) valued at $51.5 million (up 61 percent)

Beef exports have maintained a record pace into January with steady export volumes (89,454 metric tons) while value jumped 14 percent to $405.9 million. This comes after a year of exports of nearly 1.3 million metric tons of beef valued at more than $5.4 billion, according to USMEF.

US beef muscle cut exports to Russia in January jumped 84 percent to 2,129 metric tons.

Top beef export markets in January were:

  • Mexico: 19,850 metric tons (down 2 percent) valued at $87.1 million (up 16 percent)
  • Middle East: 13,047 metric tons (up 12 percent) valued at $29 million (up 14 percent)
  • Canada: 12,582 metric tons (down 3 percent) valued at $72.7 million (up 15 percent)
  • South Korea: 11,697 metric tons (down 2 percent) valued at $51.9 million (up 6 percent)
  • Japan: 9,688 metric tons (up 2 percent) valued at $59.6 million (up 26 percent)

Lamb exports also are performing well, according to USMEF. Mexico raised its purchases 31 percent in volume to 1,021 metric tons and 25 percent in value to $1.1 million. Mexico accounted for 74.5 percent of total lamb exports by volume and 54.6 percent by value, according to USMEF.