WASHINGTON – US beef exports made gains in January, while pork exports slipped compared to January a year ago, according to statistics compiled by the US Meat Exports Federation (USMEF).

Beef exports for January rose 9.3 percent in value from 2011 levels on slightly lower volumes (3.2 percent). Sharply higher exports to Hong Kong, Canada and Taiwan, and solid growth to Japan accounted for the gain in value, USMEF said. But while beef exports continued the trend of higher export values on lower volumes, pork exports improved slightly from December levels but remained behind year-ago totals.

Pork exports closed 7.6 percent lower in value on 11.7 percent smaller volumes compared to January 2012, but advanced slightly compared to December USMEF said. The ASEAN region was the leading performer with 17.1 percent higher volumes and slightly higher value at 2.7 percent.

“The year ahead will offer no shortage of challenges to red-meat exports, which will require our industry to be creative and aggressive,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “On the beef side, we are still dealing with market access barriers in Saudi Arabia and significant obstacles in Russia, but there are signs for optimism in the months ahead with expanded beef access to Japan and Hong Kong that will provide a boost.”

Challenges facing US pork exports include an overabundance of domestic pork in South Korea that is stifling demand for imports there, and China’s need for pork imports are on the decline as the world's largest pork consumer continues to build its domestic pork industry, according to Seng. Additionally, a weaker Japanese yen, which has fallen 20 percent in value compared to the US dollar since last summer, will be a factor in purchasing patterns for beef and pork.

“Looking ahead, USMEF is focusing on building demand for chilled and branded pork in both Japan and Korea as well as overall consumer demand for pork in Mexico,” Seng said. “We will see benefits from these campaigns in the year ahead.”

Beef exports totaled 86,608 metric tons with a value of $443.8 million. A 91.5 percent drop in exports to Russia, which has been delisting US beef plants for detection of ractopamine residues accounted for the decline in volume compared to January 2012.

Canada was the top volume and value market for US beef exports in January, buying 16,586 metric tons (up 32 percent from 2012) valued at $102.9 million (42 percent increase).

Beef purchases by Hong Kong jumped 144 percent in volume and 115 percent in value to 7,004 metric tons valued at $37.1 million.

Beef exports to Taiwan climbed 14.5 percent in volume and 39.7 percent in value (3,167 metric tons valued at $22.6 million) as the country continued its recovery as an export market.

The value of beef exports to South Korea advanced 12.2 percent to $58.2 million on slightly lower volumes of 11,602 metric tons.

Japan increased its US beef purchases 5.5 percent in volume and 21.6 percent in value in anticipation of the Feb. 1 expansion of the market to beef from cattle less than 30 months of age. Beef exports were 10,217 metric tons valued at $72.5 million.

Pork exports in January totaled 186,681 metric tons with a value of $523.7 million – declines of 11.7 percent in volume and 7.6 percent in value from January 2012, but up slightly from December’s totals of 186,135 metric tons valued at $515.9 million.

Japan bought 37,745 metric tons of US pork, a decline of 9.5 percent. Pork exports had a value of $173.6 million, up 1.7 percent from a year ago. Mexico remains the volume leader at 55,103 metric tons (a decline of 9 percent) valued at $102.7 million, a decline of 6.9 percent.

Russia posted the largest pork export gains of 8.2 percent to 3,314 metric tons valued at $10.2 million, a gain of 9.7 percent. USMEF noted that the purchase may have been made in anticipation of Russia’s ban on US pork and beef in February.

The ASEAN region posted a 17.1 percent gain in pork volume (to 4,921 metric tons) and a 2.7 percent bump in value to $10.8 million.