U.S. pork and beef exports remained strong in June, pushing export value for both products to a record first-half pace according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
June pork exports totaled 181,531 metric tons, up 7% from a year ago, while export value increased 25% to $585.1 million. In the first half of 2014, pork export volume was at 1.15 million mt, up 9%, and value was $3.4 billion, up 17%, achieving record highs.
Beef exports were up 5% in volume in June and set a new monthly value record of $631.7 million, up 12%. First-half export value also set a new record of $3.27 billion. Export volume was 585,953 mt in the first half, up 8% from a year ago but trailing the 2011 record.
Pork export value per head slaughtered was a record-high $72.24 in June, up $15 from a year ago. The percentage of U.S. production exported was 25% for muscle cuts and 29% when including both muscle cuts and variety meat – up from 24% and 28%, respectively, in June 2013.
With European pork absent from the Russian market for the past six months due to an impasse over African swine fever, competition has intensified in key Asian markets. But U.S. pork still achieved first-half increases in South Korea and Japan.
"USMEF has focused for many years on establishing loyal customers in these markets and impressing upon them the quality and consistency of U.S. pork," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "That loyalty is being tested in this increasingly competitive environment, but our results have held up very well."
Pork in the first half >>
Exports to Korea continued well ahead of last year's pace, as high domestic pork prices helped fuel imports. First-half volume was up 31% to 77,209 mt, while value increased 48% to $236.3 million.
Pork muscle cut exports to Japan were up 3% in volume and 5% in value, while exports to Mexico posted a very strong first half, increasing 15% in volume and 42% in value.
Colombia has emerged as the pacesetter for U.S. pork in the Central/South America region, with exports increasing 83% in volume and nearly doubling in value. Exports to the entire region increased 12% in volume and 21% in value.
After a down year in 2013, exports to Australia rebounded nicely – increasing 17% in volume and 25% in value.
U.S. pork regained limited access to the Russian market in March after a 13-month absence, with two slaughter plants resuming shipments to Russia. Exports were large in June, but have now been suspended due to retaliatory sanctions announced this week by the Russian government.
June beef export value nearly $300 per head >>
Beef export value per head of fed slaughter set another new record in June at $299.14, up $38.93 from a year ago. The ratio of U.S. production exported was 12% for muscle cuts and 15% for muscle cuts and variety meat combined – up from 11% and 14%, respectively, a year ago.
"Seeing beef export value per head approach $300 is really remarkable," Seng explained. "Just four years ago, export value was about $150 per head and we broke $200 per head for the first time in 2011. This shows just how important the international markets are for delivering strong returns to the producer."
Exports to Hong Kong increased 55% in volume and 76% in value. U.S. beef regained full access to Hong Kong in mid-June, adding key products such as ground beef and processed meats, which should help exports maintain a strong pace in the second half of the year.
Momentum continued in Korea, as exports increased 11% in volume and 40% in value. Strong demand from retail outlets and restaurants helped fuel a 50% increase in beef muscle cut value to Korea.
Export volume to Japan slowed slightly from a year ago, down 3%, but export value was steady at $693.6 million. Japanese import data show that U.S. beef continues to gain market share, as imports were lower from all other main suppliers.
Exports to Mexico increased 30% to 116,337 mt, while value increased 44% to $545.9 million. However, USMEF is analyzing possible issues with the 2013 export data for Mexico, which may partially explain the large year-over-year increase.
Taiwan bounced back from a slow first quarter to post first-half increases in both volume, up 3%, and value, up 7%.
Growth continued in the Central/South America region, with exports increasing 5% in volume and 20% in value. Peru is still the largest volume market in the region at 6,965 mt, while Chile leads in value at $33.6 million.