U.S. pork exports posted the best month on record in November, reaching new highs in both volume and value, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Pork exports reached 259,812 metric tons (mt) in November, up 26% year-over-year and 11% above the previous high set in July 2019. Export value was $712.7 million, up 32% from a year ago and breaking the previous record (also from July 2019) by 14%, according to USMEF. These results pushed January-November exports 7% above the previous year's pace in volume (2.39 million mt) and 6% higher in value ($6.19 billion). Pork exports are now on pace to exceed previous records for both volume (2.45 million mt in 2017) and value ($6.65 billion in 2014).
Pork export value per head slaughtered was $62.90 in November, up 29% from a year ago and the highest in five years, the federation says. Through the first 11 months of 2019, per-head value averaged $52.24, up 2% year-over-year. November exports accounted for 29.7% of total pork production and 26.8% for muscle cuts only, up substantially from a year ago (24.5% and 22%, respectively). For January through November, exports accounted for 26.4% of total pork production and 23% for muscle cuts, up from 22.4% and 25.7%, respectively, a year ago, according to USMEF.
Demand from China/Hong Kong continued to drive U.S. pork export growth in November, with volume climbing to 86,213 mt— up 284% from a year ago — valued at $204.9 million (up 240%). For January through November, exports to the region were up 71% to 554,789 mt, valued at $1.18 billion (up 49%), USMEF notes.
Although November pork export volume to Mexico was lower than a year ago at 57,537 mt (down 6%), export value surged 28% to $124.3 million, the highest since July. For January through November, exports to Mexico were down 11% from a year ago in volume (641,952 mt) and 6% lower in value $1.14 billion. Competition from Canadian pork was especially strong in the Mexican market while Canada was suspended from China (late June to early November). From January through November, Canada's exports to Mexico increased 8% from a year ago to 128,100 mt, valued at $185 million (up 14%), the federation says.
"While the surge in pork shipments to China will capture most of the headlines this month, it is equally encouraging to see export value to Mexico make such a strong recovery," said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO in the release. "Getting exports to Mexico back to the record levels of 2017 and early 2018 is a top priority for the U.S. pork industry, because demand from Mexico is such an important driver of profitability for everyone in the supply chain. The same is true in Japan, so it's very important to reclaim lost share in these longtime mainstay markets. "
November exports to Japan trailed the previous year by 3% at 32,594 mt, while value was down 1% to $136.5 million. Through the first 11 months of the year, exports to Japan were down 6% from a year ago in volume (340,568 mt) and 7% lower in value ($1.4 billion). Japanese import data show imports of U.S. pork decreased by $121 million with much of the decline being in ground seasoned pork, which fell by $73 million due to the wide tariff rate discrepancy, USMEF says. Beginning Jan. 1, Japan's tariff rates on U.S. pork and pork products were lowered to match those imposed on European, Canadian and Mexican pork, eliminating a significant price disadvantage that slowed U.S. exports in 2019. The rate for U.S. ground seasoned pork fell from 20 to 13.3%.
January-November 2019 highlights for U.S. pork exports include:
- Exports to Colombia rebounded in November to pull 9% ahead of the previous year's pace in volume (92,280 mt) and 7% higher in value ($203.6 million). Also bolstered by strong growth in Chile and Peru, exports to South America already surpassed previous full-year records in both volume (141,657 mt, up 18% year-over-year) and value ($356.2 million, up 22%).
- Led by strong growth in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica, exports to Central America also set new annual records for volume (86,794 mt, up 16%) and value ($211.8 million, up 20%).
- Surging demand in Australia and New Zealand pushed exports to Oceania to new heights. Exports to the region jumped 36% from a year ago in both volume (105,399 mt) and value ($304.5 million).
- Exports to Canada increased 6% from a year ago in both volume (197,847 mt) and value ($738.2 million).