U.S. beef exports enjoyed their best month of the year in June, rising both in volume and value over 2012 levels, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program.

Beef exports for the month rose 8 percent in volume to about 224.3 million pounds and jumped 21 percent in value to $562.3 million. An even more pronounced improvement manifested in the per-head export value recorded for beef: In June, that value hit a record $260.21 per head of fed slaughter, an increase of $56.31 – or about 27.6 percent – over June of 2012.

Top performing beef export markets in June (by volume) were Japan (+66 percent), Hong Kong (+156 percent), Mexico (+14 percent), Taiwan (+400 percent) and Central/South America (+62 percent; growth mainly to Peru and Chile). The absence of exports to Russia, however, continues to be felt, as the 5,903 metric tons of beef exported there last June made it the No. 6 market for U.S. beef.

“There is no question that challenges persist, such as the continued closure of the Russian market, but we are seeing positive signs from key markets, including Japan and Mexico, that are vital trading partners for our industry,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO.

“We are focused on the markets where we can take advantage of opportunities, such as expanded access for U.S. beef in Japan, the rebound in Taiwan and continued growth of the Hong Kong and Central/South America markets,” he continued. “At the same time, we continue relationship-building in Russia for when that market reopens, and stand ready to capitalize on the growing demand for high-quality beef in China when access can be restored for the first time since 2003.”

For the combined first six months of 2013, U.S. beef exports were 6 percent ahead of 2012 in value, at $2.83 billion, and down just 1 percent in volume to about 1.2 billion pounds. Total beef exports (muscle cuts plus variety meat) accounted for 13.6 percent of U.S. beef production in June, up from 12 percent last year. For the first half of the year, they account for 12.4 percent of production, about the same as in 2012.

June beef muscle cut exports accounted for 11 percent of production (up from 10 percent in June 2012). For the first half of the year, exports accounted for 9.6 percent of beef muscle cut production, about the same as last year.

Complete export results for U.S. beef are available at USMEF.