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First-half Results Encouraging for U.S. Pork, Lamb Exports

First-half Results Encouraging for U.S. Pork, Lamb Exports

Pork exports remain solid, but lamb exports remain below 2011 levels.

U.S. pork exports concluded the first half of 2012 in solid fashion, with June pork exports 4% higher in value than last year on steady volume.

Pork exports remain solid, but lamb exports remain below 2011 levels.

June pork exports totaled 165,065 metric tons valued at $468.3 million. This pushed the first half total to 1.13 million metric tons valued at $3.17 billion, which was 5% higher in volume and 13% higher in value than the record pace of 2011. June export value equated to $54.78 per head slaughtered, bumping per-head value for the year to $57.80 – more than 10% higher than in the first half of 2011. For the year, about 24% of U.S. muscle cut production has been exported and nearly 28% of total production (muscle cuts plus variety meat). Last year these ratios were 22.5% and 27%, respectively.

Markets driving first half export growth for U.S. pork included volume leader Mexico, which was up 13% in volume to 294,097 metric tons and 11% in value to $537.4 million. Value pacesetter Japan was up 7% in value ($1.01 billion) despite a 7% decline in volume (231,984 metric tons). June was a rather slow month for Japan, with export volume posting the lowest total (32,923 metric tons) since September 2010.

"The remainder of 2012 will be very challenging in Japan, but we continue to pursue new marketing opportunities," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "In Mexico, we are focused on growing overall pork consumption, as this will definitely pay long-term dividends for the U.S. industry."

Russia provided a significant boost for June's pork results, with export volume up 75% from a year ago to 11,094 metric tons. Export value topped $30 million – an increase of more than 50% over June 2011, bolstered by strong demand for higher-value products such as boneless hams and boneless loins. Through June, this year's pork exports to Russia were up 42% in volume (50,226 metric tons) and 38% in value ($145 million).

"U.S. pork still faces obstacles in Russia, but we are gaining traction there," Seng said. "This is the first year in which the United States is participating in Russia's large (400,000 metric tons) global import quota, which expands our growth potential. On Aug. 23, the duty rate on pork imported under this quota drops from 15% to zero. This will level the playing field for U.S. pork - especially vis-à-vis Brazil, which for many years has enjoyed a tariff rate advantage."

Other key growth markets for U.S. pork in the first half of 2012 included: China/Hong Kong, up 28% in volume (221,876 metric tons) and 72% in value ($448.6 million); Canada, up 14% in volume (110,876 metric tons) and 20% in value ($402.8 million); and Central and South America, up 16% in volume (39,700 metric tons) and 17% in value ($101 million).

Lamb exports gain some June momentum but remain below 2011

U.S. lamb exports also struggled with a tough economic environment in the first half of 2012, finishing 34% lower in volume (6,215 metric tons) and 19% lower in value ($12.5 million). June results were lower than a year ago but offered some encouraging signs as export volume (1,106 metric tons) was the highest since January and value ($2.5 million) was the second-highest of the year (slightly below March).

"USMEF recently met with lamb industry representatives to discuss marketing initiatives in markets currently open to U.S. lamb," Seng said. "However, another key factor in reversing the recent decline in lamb exports will be gaining access to markets such as Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Korea and the European Union. These are critical destinations in which a resumption of trade could present promising opportunities for U.S. lamb, especially in the foodservice sector. We are working with our trade officials to make that happen."

Complete export results for pork and lamb are available online.

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