U.S. beef exports remained on a record value pace through April, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), contractor to the beef checkoff.
Beef exports moved seasonally higher in April to 203.4 million pounds, the largest monthly volume since December 2014 but still down 7 percent year-over-year. Beef export value ($555.3 million) was also the highest since December and up 3 percent year-over-year. From January through April, beef exports totaled 753.8 million pounds, down 9 percent from the same period in 2014. But export value was still 4 percent ahead of last year’s record pace at $2.12 billion.
“Exports are still recovering from a slow start to the year, but the April results confirm that the U.S. industry is regaining global momentum,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “April was really the first time this year that we saw relief from the West Coast port situation – not that shipping traffic was completely back to normal, but the worst of the congestion was clearly behind us. And despite the U.S. dollar continuing to be very strong relative to the currencies of most key customers and competitors, demand for U.S. meat is holding up well.”
Seng cautioned, however, that the strong dollar leaves the U.S. industry in a vulnerable position when competitors gain tariff advantages in key markets. “Australian beef is enjoying its second round of tariff rate reductions in Japan, and the projected slowdown in Australia’s beef production has not materialized,” he said.
Strong demand in Asia keeps beef export value on record pace
January-April beef exports to Japan increased year-over-year in both volume (156.4 million pounds, up 5 percent) and value ($457.7 million, up 8 percent). The same was true for Korea, where exports increased 4 percent in volume (85.6 million pounds) and 8 percent in value ($277.2 million). April was an especially strong month for exports to Korea, where U.S. beef has gained increasing popularity in the retail sector.
“U.S. beef has traditionally enjoyed a great deal of success in Korea’s restaurant sector,” Seng explained. “Over the past year, we have placed an increased emphasis on beef promotions in Korea’s supermarkets and hypermarkets, and the results have been outstanding.”
Other January-April highlights for U.S. beef include:
- Despite a weakened peso, demand for U.S. beef has held up well in Mexico. Though down 3 percent year-over-year, export volume (162.7 million pounds) was still the largest of any international market, reflecting strong growth in variety meat. Exports increased 2 percent in value to $365.9 million, ranking second behind Japan.
- Exports to Taiwan rebounded in April after slumping the previous month. While January-April volume (19.7 million pounds) remained down 6 percent year-over-year, value increased 13 percent to $88 million.
- The Dominican Republic and Guatemala have been top performers in Latin America. Exports to the Dominican Republic jumped 37 percent in volume (5.6 million pounds) and 27 percent in value ($19.2 million), while exports to Guatemala were up 24 percent (3.4 million pounds) and 28 percent ($9 million), respectively.
- Results have been impressive for the two leading markets in the ASEAN region. Exports to the Philippines were up 7 percent in volume to 11.2 million pounds, but jumped 41 percent in value to $29 million. Exports to Vietnam were 36 percent higher in volume (2.5 million pounds) and surged 87 percent in value to $9.9 million.
January-April beef exports equated to 13 percent of total beef production and 10 percent for muscle cuts only – down slightly from last year. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $292, up 10 percent from a year ago.
Complete January-April export results are available on the USMEF statistics webpage.