U.S. beef exports remained well above last year’s pace in July, posting one of the highest monthly export value totals on record, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). July pork export volume dipped below its year-ago level for the first time in 15 months, with export value also down slightly. Read more about pork exports from Farm Journal's PORK.

July beef exports totaled 104,488 metric tons (mt), up 5 percent year-over-year, while export value reached $623.7 million – up 18 percent from a year ago and the highest since December 2014. For January through July, exports increased 11 percent in volume (711,364 mt) and 15 percent in value ($3.97 billion) compared to the first seven months of last year.

Exports accounted for 13.2 percent of total U.S. beef production in July and 10.7 percent for muscle cuts only. These were the highest ratios of 2017, but down from 14.2 percent and 11 percent, respectively, last July. For January through July, beef exports accounted for 12.8 percent of total production and 10 percent for muscle cuts – roughly steady with last year. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $299.21 in July, up more than $35 (or 13 percent) from a year ago. Through July, per-head export value was up 9 percent to $273.52.

“July was certainly a solid month, especially for beef exports, but these results remind us that the U.S. red meat industry operates in an intensely competitive global environment,” said USMEF CEO Philip Seng. “At a time when some of our most essential trade agreements are under review, we must be mindful of how these agreements have helped make U.S. beef, pork and lamb more readily available and more affordable for millions of global customers, to the benefit of U.S. producers and everyone in the U.S. supply chain.”

Beef export volume to Japan largest in four years; value highest of post-BSE era

Beef exports to leading market Japan totaled 27,689 mt in July, up 20 percent from a year ago and the largest since July 2013 – which was shortly after Japan increased the eligible U.S. cattle age to 30 months. July export value to Japan increased 36 percent to $175.7 million, the highest monthly total since 1996. For January through July, exports to Japan were up 23 percent in volume (178,501 mt) and 29 percent in value ($1.08 billion). USMEF’s featuring of chilled beef in Japan continues to pay dividends as chilled exports were up 39 percent to 83,951 mt valued at $613 million (up 40 percent). Driven by strong growth in Japan’s foodservice industry, especially the gyudon beef bowl chains which heavily rely on U.S. short plate, U.S. frozen beef exports to Japan were up 12 percent to 64,928 mt (valued at $250 million, up 18 percent). But Japan’s frozen beef safeguard was triggered in late July, increasing the duty on frozen beef imports from suppliers without a trade agreement with Japan, including the U.S., from 38.5 percent to 50 percent. The impact of the safeguard is not likely to surface until the September export data is available. But since August, U.S. frozen beef has been at an even larger tariff disadvantage compared to Australian beef, which is subject to a duty rate of 27.2 percent under the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement.

Beef exports to South Korea dipped below the large volume of last July to 15,587 mt (down 5 percent), but were still the largest of 2017. July export value to Korea increased 8 percent from a year ago to $101.7 million. Through July, exports to Korea increased 9 percent in volume (98,944 mt) and 19 percent in value ($629.4 million), including an impressive 83 percent increase in chilled beef exports (22,432 mt) valued at $199 million (up 88 percent). The U.S. is now the largest supplier of beef to both Japan and Korea on a value basis, with the U.S. share of Korea’s imports increasing from 43 percent to 48.5 percent.

Other January-July highlights for U.S. beef exports included:

  • After a slow start in 2017, beef exports to Hong Kong continue to rebound. Exports were up 13 percent year-over-year in volume (65,379 mt) and 21 percent higher in value ($417.8 million). July was the first full month for exports to China, as exports totaled 137 mt valued at $1.3 million.
  • Beef exports to Taiwan increased 16 percent from a year ago in volume (24,234 mt) and 24 percent in value ($215.5 million), including chilled beef exports of 9,883 mt (up 19 percent) valued at $114 million (up 22 percent). U.S. beef holds more than 70 percent of Taiwan’s chilled beef market, the highest share of any Asian destination.
  • Led by strong growth in Chile, Peru and Colombia, beef exports to South America increased 20 percent year-over-year in volume (16,159 mt) and 21 percent in value ($63.2 million). Exports to Brazil, which launched in late April, reached 1,198 mt valued at $3.2 million.
  • A strong performance in the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam fueled 79 percent year-over-year growth in export volume to the ASEAN region (23,376 mt), with value up 59 percent to $114.1 million. This region is especially strong for beef variety meat exports, as volume reached 7,145 mt (up 176 percent) valued at $12.5 million (up 164 percent).
  • Within North America, beef exports were fairly steady with last year as Mexico continues to be the second-largest volume destination for U.S. beef exports while Canada ranks fourth. Exports to Mexico increased 2 percent in volume (134,543 mt) but slipped 2 percent in value ($544.8). Exports to Canada were up 1 percent in volume (68,097 mt) and 4 percent in value ($475.7 million).

Complete January-July export results for U.S. beef, pork and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics web page