Strong March results capped an excellent first quarter for U.S. red meat exports, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), as beef exports set a new monthly value record in March and pork export value reached the second-highest level on record. The U.S. is exporting a strong share of its beef and pork production at higher prices — a clear sign of solid international demand.
March beef export value was $693.1 million, up 18 percent year-over-year and topping the previous high set in October 2014. Export volume was 111,994 metric tons (mt), up 6 percent from a year ago. For the first quarter of 2018, exports were 9 percent ahead of last year’s pace in volume (318,073 mt) and jumped 19 percent in value ($1.92 billion).
Exports accounted for 13.6 percent of total beef production in March, up nearly a full percentage point from a year ago. For muscle cuts only, the percentage exported was 11.1 percent – up from 9.9 percent last year. For January through March, exports accounted for 13.2 percent of total production and 10.7 percent for muscle cuts, up from 12.4 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively.
Beef export value averaged $332.89 per head of fed slaughter in March, up 23 percent from a year ago. For the first quarter, per-head value averaged $315.67, up 18 percent.
On the pork side, March export volume was steady with last year at 227,363 mt, while value increased 4 percent to $610.4 million – trailing only the November 2017 record of $615.8 million. For the January-March quarter, volume increased 1 percent year-over-year to 636,297 mt, while value was up 8 percent to $1.7 billion.
Exports accounted for 27.5 percent of total pork production in March, down from 28 percent a year ago, while the percentage of muscle cuts exported increased slightly to 23.5 percent. First-quarter exports followed a similar pattern, accounting for 26.6 percent of total production (down from 27 percent a year ago) and 23 percent for muscle cuts only (up from 22.6 percent).
March pork export value averaged $56.91 per head slaughtered, up 4 percent from a year ago, while the January-March average increased 5 percent to $54.81.
First-quarter pork exports fairly steady to Mexico and Japan, up sharply to Korea and Latin America
March pork exports to leading volume destination Mexico were below last year’s level in volume (66,136 mt, down 4 percent) and value ($120.3 million, down 5 percent). For the first quarter, exports were down just 1 percent from last year’s record pace in volume (203,656 mt) and were steady in value at $371.3 million.
Exports to Japan, the leading value market for U.S. pork, followed similar trends as March exports slowed 10 percent in volume (33,969 mt) and 11 percent in value ($138.6 million). But for January through March, exports to Japan were steady in volume at 101,435 mt and increased 2 percent in value to $419.7 million. This included a 5 percent decline in chilled pork to 53,688 mt. Chilled pork value was down slightly at $258.6 million.
“While exports to these two mainstay markets moderated in March, they still posted a strong first-quarter performance,” Halstrom said. “Mexico continues to be a critically important destination for U.S. hams, while Japanese demand is very strong for U.S. loins. In both cases, USMEF works closely with processors, retailers and other key buyers to develop new products and new menu ideas that will further expand consumers’ interest in these items.”
Other first-quarter highlights for U.S. pork include:
- South Korea’s demand for U.S. pork is booming, as exports climbed 36 percent from a year ago in volume (69,518 mt) and 47 percent in value ($202 million). USMEF is helping to position U.S. pork in all sectors, but Korea’s rising pork consumption is especially evident in sales of home meal replacement items and convenience foods.
- With China’s rising domestic hog production and falling prices cooling demand for imported pork, export volume to China/Hong Kong slowed 15 percent from a year ago to 111,681 mt. However, first-quarter export value still increased 1 percent to $260.7 million. China’s additional 25 percent tariff on imports of U.S. pork, imposed in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, took effect April 2 and therefore any trade impact is not reflected in the first-quarter results.
- Strong growth in Colombia pushed exports to South America 22 percent higher than a year ago in volume (29,126 mt) and 24 percent higher in value ($70.8 million). Exports to Chile dipped slightly in volume but were still higher in value year-over year. Argentina officially opened to U.S. pork in April, but shipments have not yet begun as exporters work through regulatory requirements.
- Volumes increased to traditionally reliable markets Honduras and Guatemala, as exports to Central America were up 16 percent from a year ago in volume (18,605 mt) and 22 percent in value ($45 million). The region got an even stronger boost from smaller markets, as exports jumped sharply to Panama, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
- Coming off a record year, demand for U.S. pork in the Dominican Republic continues to gain momentum, with exports increasing 23 percent in volume (9,578 mt) and 25 percent in value ($21.5 million). This pushed first-quarter exports to the Caribbean up 13 percent (13,439 mt) and 16 percent ($32.5 million), respectively.
- Steady growth in the Philippines and sharply higher results in Vietnam and Singapore moved pork exports to the ASEAN region 21 percent higher in volume (10,634 mt) and 32 percent higher in value ($29.5 million).
- Exports to Taiwan, which rebounded last year following a down year in 2016, continued to regain momentum in the first quarter. Exports increased 40 percent year-over-year in volume (3,603 mt) and 45 percent in value ($9.1 million).
Complete January-March export results for U.S. beef, pork and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics web page.
Monthly charts for U.S. pork and beef exports are also available online.