Tariff Squeeze Shows Up in Pork Export Values; Volume Still Increases

For the first seven months of the year, pork exports remained 2% ahead of last year’s record volume pace at 1.45 million mt, while value was up 3% to $3.83 billion. ( PORK )

Monthly export numbers, compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), finally start to show the effects of tariff pressures.

July exports of U.S. pork and beef were higher than a year, according to the data from USDA and USMEF. Export values were mixed with beef exports posting a near-record month, as pork export values declined from the pressures of retaliatory duties by Mexico and China.

USMEF Pork Export chart
While pork exports are typically lower in the June to October months, retaliatory tariffs have short-circuited the growth in U.S. export sales. Source: USDA, compiled by USMEF. 

Pork exports totaled 176,413 metric tons (mt) in July, up 1.5% from a year ago, valued at $465.3 million – down 5% year-over-year and the lowest monthly value since February 2016. For the first seven months of the year, pork exports remained 2% ahead of last year’s record volume pace at 1.45 million mt, while value was up 3% to $3.83 billion.


Export Volume (metric tons)

Percent Change Year-Over-Year

Export Value

Percent Change Year-Over-Year

July 2018



$465.3 million


“It is encouraging to see pork export volume continue to grow, even in the face of considerable headwinds in some of our most critical markets,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO. “But as anticipated, the 20% duty in Mexico and 62% duty in China weigh heavily on the price these exports can command and on the returns generated for producers and for everyone in the U.S. supply chain. Buyers outside of Mexico and China have stepped up to purchase our product, which is fantastic. But they are capitalizing on a buying opportunity made possible by the higher costs of doing business in Mexico and China.”

July exports accounted for 24.7% of total pork production, down from 25.9% last year. For January through July, the percentage of total pork production exported fell from 27.5% to 27%. July pork export value averaged $48.49 per head slaughtered, down 11% from a year ago. Through July, per-head export value was up slightly to $54.27.


The duty rate on most U.S. pork going to Mexico went from zero to 10% in early June, and increased to 20% in early July. July volume was 56,484, down 4% from a year ago, but it went at lower prices, with values falling 25% to $92 million.


The duty rate on U.S. pork increased from 12% to 37% on April 1, and to 62% on July 6.

July exports to China/Hong Kong totaled 22,199 mt, down 31% from a year ago. Values dropped 19% to $55.9 million. Variety meat was the hardest hit sector, down 49% in volume compared to last year.

USMEF notes China’s increasing hog herd has also had an affect. From January to July, pork and pork variety meat exports to China/Hong Kong fell by 22% in volume and 10% in value.

Other highlights:

Growth in the Korea market is a bright spot. Exports increased 44% since last year in volume (148,233 mt) and 50% in value to $424.3 million. The U.S. has supplied 40% of Korea’s imported chilled/frozen pork this year, up from 36% in 2017.

Fueled by strong results in Colombia and Peru, pork exports to South America jumped 30% in volume (73,003 mt) and 26% in value ($180.3 million). Although year-to-date pork exports to Chile were down 7%, exports gained momentum in July and were the second-largest on record at 4,103 mt. U.S. pork also recently gained access to Argentina, which could further boost exports later in the year.

Double-digit growth in all seven Central American nations pushed pork exports to the region 19% above last year’s pace in volume (46,020 mt) and 18% higher in value ($108.9 million). Honduras and Guatemala are the leading destinations, but U.S. pork continues to gain momentum throughout Central America.

The Dominican Republic has also been a top growth market this year, with exports up 22 percent in volume to 25,985 mt and value up 19 percent to $56.7 million. This included a 79 percent increase in July volume (3,718 mt), with July value up 42 percent to $7.2 million.

In Oceania, a critically important market for U.S. hams used for further processing, exports climbed 7 percent in volume (49,649 mt) and 9 percent in value ($145.7 million), with exports trending higher to both Australia and New Zealand.

With strong growth to the Philippines and shipments to Vietnam more than tripling from a year ago, exports to the ASEAN region climbed 23 percent higher in volume (32,888 mt) and 25 percent higher in value ($85.9 million).