U.S. beef exports enjoyed their best month of the year in June, rising in both volume and value over 2012. U.S. pork exports also hit 2013 highs during June, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork exports in June increased 2.4 percent in volume to 169,098 metric tons while edging a fraction higher in value to $469.7 million. Beef exports fared even better, rising 8 percent in volume to 101,720 metric tons and 21 percent in value to $562.3 million.

“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.

Another positive growth metric in June was the per head export value recorded for both beef and pork. Beef export value was a record  $260.21 per head of fed slaughter, a $56.31 increase over June 2012. For pork, the per-head export value was $57.27 in June versus $54.78 last year.

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 continues to be felt, as the 5,903 metric tons ofbeef exported there last June made it the No. 6 market for U.S. beef.

“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,” Seng said. “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 year, U.S. beef exports are down 1 percent in volume at 542,560 metric tons but 6 percent higher in value at $2.83 billion. 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  year they account for 12.4 percent of production, about the same as last year.

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

Pork exports to Mexico increased 20 percent in June, pushing the first-half total nearly even with last year’s  record pace.

“The rebound in Mexico is particularly gratifying,” Seng said.