Beef exports increased significantly in May, reaching 2016 highs, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Volume of beef shipped from the U.S. in May increased 12% from a year ago to 99,451 metric tons. Export value was 4% lower than a year ago but still the highest since July 2015. January through May export volume was 3% higher than last year, while export value was 11% lower at $2.37 billion.

Exports accounted for 14% of total beef production in May, about 1% higher than last year. Export value per head of fed slaughter was $264.98 in May and $249.67 for January through May. Those values are down 9% and 14%, respectively, from last year.

May beef exports to Japan were the largest since September 2014 at 23,158 metric tons, up 29% from a year ago, while value climbed 22% to $130.1 million. For January through May, exports were 8% higher in volume (96,480 metric tons) and down 2% in value ($552.8 million).

Exports to South Korea reached 15,471 metric tons in May, up 59% from a year ago and the largest in more than five years. Through the first five months of 2016, exports to Korea totaled 61,062 metric tons (up 26% from a year ago) valued at $359.7 million (up 5%).

“With domestic beef supplies being very tight in both Japan and Korea, our spring marketing campaigns have focused on presenting U.S. beef as a high-quality, reasonably priced alternative,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng.

Beef exports to Mexico also increased during May, increasing 33% from a year ago in volume (22,363 metric tons) and 13% in value ($90.4 million). Through May, exports to Mexico are up 1% in volume and down 11% in value.

“From a price standpoint, the Mexican beef market is certainly one of our most challenging,” Seng said. “But with U.S. beef prices moderating in recent months, this creates excellent opportunities to win back customers – especially by promoting economically priced alternative cuts, which add quality and variety to restaurant menus and have also gained traction in the retail sector.”