Headwinds Weigh on Pork Exports

"The good news is that the U.S. continues to export strong quantities of hams, picnics and other pork cuts to Mexico," Halstrom said ( PORK )

November pork exports totaled 206,852 mt, down 8 percent year-over-year, while value fell 12 percent to $538.7 million as retaliatory duties in key markets continue to generate headwinds for U.S. pork. For January through November, exports were steady with 2017’s record pace at 2.23 million mt and value was down 1 percent to $5.86 billion.

Trade barriers are also pressuring pork export value on a per-head basis. In November, export value per head slaughtered was $48.80, down 16 percent from November 2017. Through the first 11 months of 2018, per-head export value averaged $51.46, down 3 percent. Exports accounted for 24.5 percent of total November pork production and 22 percent for muscle cuts, down from 27.7 percent and 24.1 percent, respectively, in November 2017. For January through November, exports equated to 25.7 percent of total pork production (down from 26.5 percent in 2017) and 22.4 percent for muscle cuts (up slightly).

"2018 was truly a remarkable year for U.S. beef exports, which shattered previous records in both volume and value and reached new heights in several of our top markets," said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. "In the first half of the year, pork exports were also on a very positive trajectory but unfortunately U.S. pork has been heavily targeted for retaliation. We remain hopeful that these disputes can be resolved soon, so that U.S. pork can get back on a level playing field with its competitors."

Bright spots for U.S. pork include Korea, ASEAN, Latin America and Oceania

After a very solid start to 2018, November pork exports to leading volume market Mexico were lower year-over-year for the sixth consecutive month (61,344 mt, down 14 percent) while value fell 30 percent to $97.1 million. This pushed January-November export volume slightly below the record pace of 2017 at 717,618 mt (down 1 percent) while value was down 11 percent to $1.22 billion.

"The good news is that the U.S. continues to export strong quantities of hams, picnics and other pork cuts to Mexico," Halstrom said. "The bad news is that instead of generating positive returns for the U.S. industry, 20 percent of these sales go directly into the Mexican Treasury in the form of tariffs. This is why it is critical that the dispute over steel and aluminum tariffs be resolved as soon as possible."

January-November pork exports to China/Hong Kong were down 29 percent year-over-year in volume (324,623 mt) and fell 19 percent in value ($790.2 million). This region is by far the largest destination for U.S. pork variety meat, and these exports also declined by 29 percent in volume (209,090 mt) and dropped 17 percent in value ($555.5 million) as the 62 percent tariff rate makes it very difficult for U.S. pork to compete in China.

The combination of retaliatory tariffs in China and Mexico contributed to sharp decreases in ham and picnic primal values (down 19 percent and 22 percent, respectively, from June through December, compared to the same period in 2017). The decrease in values for these two primals averaged $9.95 per head for those seven months. China’s retaliatory tariffs have also heavily impacted prices for pork offals and have forced some products into rendering due to the lack of alternative markets. Lost value for feet and picnic hocks was at least $1.80 per head and losses are even worse when products that have been rendered are included. The cost of these retaliatory tariffs has been lost value of at least $11.75 per head on just hams, picnics and feet, or roughly $860 million in industry losses from June through December 2018.

Other key details from the January-November pork export results include:

  • Although November results trended significantly lower, pork exports to leading value market Japan were up 1 percent year-over-year in both volume (364,114 mt) and value ($1.5 billion). Similar to beef, market access disadvantages in Japan are a major concern for the U.S. pork industry due to Japan’s implementation of CPTPP and its economic partnership agreement with the European Union. The most immediate impact of these agreements is expected in Japan’s imports of ground seasoned pork and processed pork products as duties on those products are phased quickly to zero, while the U.S. pays 20 percent.

  • Korea stands out as the largest driver of growth for U.S. pork exports in 2018, with volume up 41 percent to 216,899 mt while value climbed 44 percent to $603.8 million – already shattering previous full-year records set in 2011. Unlike the situation at that time, when Korea was struggling with a widespread outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, Korea’s domestic production was up 4 percent in 2018. So the surge in exports to Korea is being driven by exceptional consumer demand and growing consumption. Most U.S. pork entering Korea also benefits from duty-free treatment under KORUS.

  • Led by strong growth in Colombia and Peru and a second-half rebound in Chile, pork exports to South America have already topped the records set in 2017, increasing 24 percent year-over-year in volume (120,059 mt) and 17 percent in value ($292.3 million). Colombia is an especially important destination for hams and picnics at a time when Mexico and China are imposing higher duties.
  • In Central America, pork exports were higher year-over-year in mainstay markets Honduras and Guatemala and posted very strong growth in Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Export volume to the region was up 15 percent to 74,980 mt, breaking the 2017 record. Export value was 12 percent higher at $176.8 million, and will set a new record when December results are included.
  • Pork exports to the Dominican Republic have also exceeded previous yearly highs, with volume up 37 percent year-over-year to 39,453 mt and value jumping 29 percent to $85.7 million.
  • With solid growth in both Australia and New Zealand, pork exports to Oceania were up 12 percent in volume (77,336 mt) and 10 percent in value ($224.3 million). This region is also a key destination for U.S. hams when retaliatory duties are in place in Mexico and China.
  • Strong performances in the Philippines and Vietnam drove pork exports to the ASEAN region 46 percent higher in volume (63,978 mt) and 33 percent higher in value ($158.6 million). Pork variety meat exports to the ASEAN were especially strong, more than doubling year-over-year in both volume (26,626 mt, up 138 percent) and value ($42.7 million, up 115 percent).

Complete January-November export results for U.S. beef, pork and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics Web page.

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