WASHINGTON – US pork exports were slightly lower in July compared to a year ago, while beef exports eased in volume, according to data compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Lamb exports continued to struggle.

Beef exports achieved their largest monthly total while maintaining value, according to USMEF.

“With higher operating costs, both the pork and beef sectors are facing serious economic challenges,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “Tight beef supplies have pushed prices higher and strong demand from our international customers is helping support higher beef cutout values.

"On the pork side, an increase in US production has been offset by larger exports, helping drive the pork cutout to its peak in late June," Seng added. "With these factors in mind, it is absolutely critical that we remain aggressive with our international promotions and continue to capture the highest return possible on the products we export. Our pork and beef export value totals continue to outpace last year’s records, which is certainly a positive sign.”

July pork exports declined nearly 3 percent to 164,720 metric tons, according to USMEF. This represents the smallest volume since October 2010. Pork export value was also dropped to less than 3 percent to $467.4 million. However, year-to-date exports through July remained very strong — 4 percent above last year’s record pace in volume (1.3 million metric tons) and 11 percent higher in value ($3.63 billion).

Beef export volume in July reached 108,971 metric tons, a decline of 9.5 percent compared to the comparable year-ago period, according to USMEF. It was the largest monthly volume of 2012 and up 16 percent from June. Export value in July ($513.5 million) was slightly higher compared to 2011, and up 11 percent from June. Year-to-date exports through July were flat at 11 percent below the record pace of 2011 in volume (659,433 metric tons) but increased 4 percent in value to $3.17 billion.

US lamb exports continued to struggle through a challenging economic environment through July, USMEF said. Year-over-year exports fell 36 percent in volume (7,299 metric tons) and 21 percent in value ($14.7 million). Export volume for lamb was down across the globe, though increases in value were achieved in Canada ($2.5 million, 24 percent) and Panama ($128,000, 103 percent). USMEF said the organization continues to work with US trade officials to regain access for US lamb in critical markets, including Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Korea and the European Union.