August was a strong month for U.S. red meat exports as beef export volume was the largest in nearly two years and both beef and pork exports posted the highest monthly values of 2016, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
August beef export volume climbed 27 percent from a year ago to 106,818 metric tons (mt) – the highest since October 2014, breaking the 100,000 mt mark for the first time this year. Export value was $566.8 million, up 14 percent. For January through August, export volume was up 6 percent to 747,706 mt, while value was down 7 percent to just over $4 billion.
Exports accounted for 13.5 percent of total beef production in August and 10 percent for muscle cuts only – each up about 1 percentage point from a year ago. For January through August, these ratios were roughly steady with last year at 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Export value per head of fed slaughter was $256.73 in August, down 4 percent from a year ago, and $252.50 for January through August, down 12 percent.
Pork exports were up 16 percent from a year ago to 186,689 mt, the largest volume ever posted in August. Export value was up 19 percent to $512.76 million. For January through August, pork export volume was 1.48 million mt, up 5 percent from the same period last year. Export value moved 1 percent ahead of last year’s pace at $3.78 billion.
With August pork production at the largest level so far this year and record-large for the month of August, exports accounted for 24 percent of total production and 20 percent for muscle cuts only – up slightly from a year ago. For January through August, exports accounted for 25 percent of total pork production and 21 percent for muscle cuts, roughly steady with last year. Export value per head slaughtered was $49.36 in August, up 7 percent from a year ago and exceeding last year’s average for the third consecutive month. For the first eight months of the year, per-head value averaged $49.37, down 1 percent.
Variety meat exports provided a strong boost to the August totals for both beef and pork. Beef variety meat exports were up 25 percent from a year ago in volume (to 31,582 mt) and 28 percent in value (to $85.8 million). Pork variety meat exports were 44,563 mt valued at $88.2 million – up 44 percent and 51 percent, respectively.
“U.S. livestock producers deserve some good news in what has been a tough year, and this upward trend in exports is very encouraging,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “Currently U.S. beef and pork are very competitive, as the production of our key competitors – Australia and the European Union – has moderated and prices have jumped. As U.S. competitiveness continues to improve, we remain optimistic that exports will maintain positive momentum through the end of this year and into 2017.”
Beef exports record-large to Korea, Taiwan
August beef exports exceeded year-ago levels in most major markets, setting new monthly records in South Korea (17,454 mt, up 61 percent from a year ago) and Taiwan (4,965 mt, up 23 percent). For January through August, market-specific highlights for U.S. beef included:
- Japan was the leading market in both volume (170,665 mt, up 16 percent from a year ago) and value ($984.2 million, up 9 percent), including strong growth for high-value chilled muscle cuts and beef tongues.
- Despite the persistently weak peso, exports to Mexico increased 8 percent from a year ago in volume (154,376) while falling 9 percent in value ($649.6 million), led by larger volumes of shoulder clods and rounds.
- In Korea, the increasing popularity of U.S. steaks – especially at retail – helped drive exports up 28 percent from a year ago in volume (107,855 mt) and 11 percent in value ($628.8 million).
- U.S. beef holds more than two-thirds of the chilled beef market in Taiwan, where exports increased 6 percent in volume (25,872 mt) while falling 3 percent in value ($213.5 million).
- Expanded access has created new opportunities for U.S. beef in Indonesia, where exports grew four-fold in volume (4,278 mt) and more than doubled in value to $18.6 million. Along with solid growth in Vietnam, these results drove exports to the ASEAN region 11 percent higher in volume (15,160 mt) while value fell 9 percent to $83.8 million.
Pork exports rebound in Mexico and Japan; volumes stay strong to China/Hong Kong
Pork exports to Mexico continued to show improvement in August, easily reaching 2016 highs in both volume (64,620 mt, up 8 percent from a year ago) and value ($129.3 million, up 17 percent). For January through August, exports to Mexico were still down 6 percent in volume (444,170 mt) and 2 percent in value ($808.3 million), but gained ground on last year’s pace.
Chilled pork exports to Japan have been on a record pace all year (up 14 percent year-over-year to 147,000 mt) but a slump in frozen volumes has held back overall results. With chilled pork continuing to perform well in August and frozen exports rebounding, exports to Japan climbed 25 percent from a year ago in volume (35,154 mt) and 27 percent in value ($151.2 million). Through August, exports to Japan were down 8 percent in volume (258,495 mt) and 6 percent in value ($1.03 billion).
Other January-August export results for U.S. pork included:
- Exports to China/Hong Kong remained well ahead of their 2015 pace, with export volume up 76 percent in volume (370,238 mt) and 61 percent in value ($711.8 million). China/Hong Kong’s pork imports from all suppliers remain higher year-over-year, but have slowed from the peak levels seen earlier this year. Imports are expected to continue to moderate this fall but there are indications that buying could trend upward again prior to Chinese New Year.
- While pork exports to Korea remain down from last year’s large totals in both volume (87,739 mt, down 28 percent) and value ($231.7 million, down 35 percent), exports trended strongly upward in August and are well-positioned for a strong finish in 2016.
- Led by mainstay markets Honduras and Guatemala and strong growth in Nicaragua, U.S. pork continues to have a big year in Central America, with volume up 18 percent from a year ago to 41,947 mt. Export value was 11 percent higher at $99 million.
- Exports to Canada remained slightly ahead of last year, up 2 percent in volume (131,104 mt) and 1 percent in value ($522.9 million).
August lamb exports higher in volume; value steady
August exports of U.S. lamb totaled 768 mt, up 31 percent from last year’s low volume, while export value was steady at $1.4 million. August exports were higher than a year ago to Mexico and the Middle East, but declined to the Caribbean and Canada. For January through August, lamb exports were 5 percent below last year’s pace in volume (5,780 mt) and down 10 percent in value ($11.7 million).