U.S. beef exports remained strong in June, pushing export values to a record level for the first half of the year, according to USDA statistics and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a contractor to the beef checkoff.

Beef exports were up 5 percent in volume to about 235 million pounds in June and set a new monthly value record of $631.7 million – up 12 percent from June 2013. Export values also set a new record of $3.27 billion for the first six months of 2014, export – up 16 percent from the record set during the same period last year. Export volume for the six-month period reached nearly 1.3 billion pounds, representing an 8 percent increases year-on-year, but trailing the volume record set in 2011.

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 earlier. The ratio of U.S. production exported was 12 percent for muscle cuts and 15 percent for muscle cuts and variety meat combined – up from 11 percent and 14 percent, respectively, a year ago.

“Seeing beef export value per head approach $300 is really remarkable,” USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng said. “Just four years ago, export value was about $150 per head, and we broke $200 per head for the first time ever in 2011. This shows just how important the international markets are for delivering strong returns to the producer.”

First-half 2014 highlights for U.S. beef exports included:

  • Exports to Hong Kong increased 55 percent in volume to 158 million pounds and 76 percent in value to $492.5 million. 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 percent in volume to about 125 million pounds and 40 percent in value to $379.5 million. Strong demand from retail outlets and restaurants helped fuel a 50-percent increase in beef muscle cut value ($362.6 million) to Korea.
  • Export volume to Japan slowed slightly from a year ago, down 3 percent to about 245 million pounds, though the value of those exports 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 percent to more than 256 million pounds, while value increased 44 percent to $545.9 million. USMEF is, however, 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 cumulative first-half increases in both volume, up 3 percent to 35.5 million pounds, and value, up 7 percent to $132.8.
  • Growth continued in the Central/South America region, with exports increasing 5 percent in volume to 44.7 million pounds, and 20 percent in value to $84.8 million. Peru is still the largest volume market in the region, importing 15.3 million pounds of U.S. beef during the first half of 2014, while Chile leads in value, at $33.6 million.