Derrell Peel: Protein Trade Themes

Trade relations between the US and China are tense as both nations impose tariffs on imports. ( MGN/Pixabay )

The latest trade data reveals several trade themes and impacts of recent events.  April beef exports were 3.4% lower year-over-year but are up 6.9% for the January-to-April total.  Beef imports were fractionally lower in April and are up 3.3 percent for the year-to-date. Total cattle imports were down 9.5% in April and are down 7.3% so far this year. 

Pork exports were up 22.3% in April and are up 35.2% for the year-to-date.  Broiler exports were up 7.6% in April and are 7.8% higher year-over-year for the January- to-April period.

China continues to struggle with the impacts of African Swine Fever (ASF) and the resulting protein shortages.  This is supporting U.S. protein exports.  With pork as the preferred meat, pork exports to China continue very strong. 

April pork exports to China were up 365.2% with year to date exports to China up 458.2% year-over-year.  China has replaced Mexico as the leading pork export market, accounting for 30.4% of total pork exports so far this year.  China is importing other proteins as well.  Broiler exports to China jumped sharply in April and accounted for 12.9% of total broiler exports. 

U.S. beef exports to China remain small but are growing.  Beef exports to China were up 95.1% year-over-year in April and are up 38.7% thus far this year.  China accounts for 1.0% of total beef exports for the year-to-date.

Mexico is struggling with harsh recessionary economic conditions and COVID-19 impacts.  Mexico is the largest export destination for U.S. broiler exports.  April broiler exports to Mexico were even with one year ago and are up 12.5% for the year-to-date.  As noted above, Mexico has dropped to second as destination for U.S. pork exports.  April pork exports to Mexico were down 16.8% year-over-year but are still 5.3% higher for the year-to-date.  Beef exports to Mexico dropped dramatically by 61.7% in April contributing to a 22.0% decrease so far in 2020.

April beef imports were up from New Zealand (+28.2% year-over-year) and Mexico (+8.9%) but down from Australia (-15.6%) and Canada (-26.5%) compared to one year ago.   Beef exports to Japan continue to improve, reflecting the restoration of a competitive tariff situation this year.  April beef exports to Japan were up 43.2% with year-to-date exports up 23.6%. 

Considerable uncertainty remains in the U.S. and global markets going forward. While domestic protein markets continue to sort out the COVID-19 and recessionary impacts, meat trade is generally offering a much-needed bright spot across all protein industries. 

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