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U.S. red meat exports continue to outpace year-ago levels

Good demand continues amid rising U.S. meat production.

February exports of U.S. pork and beef were higher than a year ago in both volume and value, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork exports totaled 205,466 metric tons (mt) in February, up 4% from last year’s large total, while export value increased 12% to $547.2 million. Through February, pork exports were 2% ahead of last year’s pace at 408,934 mt, while export value climbed 10% to $1.09 billion.

February exports accounted for 27.8% of total pork production and 24% for muscle cuts only – up from 27.6% and 22.9%, respectively, a year ago. Through February, the percentage of total pork production exported was slightly lower year over year, at 26.1%, while the percentage of muscle cuts exported edged higher to 22.7%. Export value in February averaged $56.78 per head slaughtered, up 9% from a year ago, while the value year to date was $53.70, up 5%.

February beef export volume improved 11% from a year ago to 100,593 mt, while export value increased 18% to $599.8 million. Although this was the lowest monthly value total since May 2017, it is the highest on record for the month of February. January-February volume was 206,079 mt, up 10% from the first two months of 2017, while export value was 20% above last year’s pace, at $1.22 billion.

Exports accounted for 13.6% of total beef production in February, up 1% from a year ago. USMEF said the percentage of muscle cuts exported was 10.8%, up from 10.1% last year. Through February, beef exports accounted for 13% of total production -- up from 12.4% -- and 10.4% for muscle cuts, up from 9.8%. Beef export value in February averaged $322.29 per head of fed slaughter, up 16% from a year ago, while the value year to date averaged $306.69, up 15%.

“Red meat exports are off to a strong start in 2018 and continue to deliver excellent returns for U.S. producers,” USMEF president and chief executive officer Dan Halstrom noted. “The outstanding level of export value per head slaughtered is especially encouraging at a time in which U.S. meat production is high and the trade climate is somewhat volatile. Through all the uncertainty, international customers remain very committed to U.S. pork and beef. This reinforces the importance of having experienced USMEF staff members located in key markets, working every day to maintain customer loyalty and reinforce the United States’ reputation as a reliable supplier.”

Pork exports to Mexico steady

According to USMEF, February pork exports to leading volume market Mexico were steady with last year, at 64,523 mt, while export value was slightly higher, at $117.5 million. Through February, export volume was steady with last year’s record pace at 137,520 mt, while export value increased 3% to $251 million.

In Japan, the leading value destination for U.S. pork, February volume was steady year over year at 32,418 mt, while value was up 3% to $134.7 million. Through February, export volume to Japan increased 6% from a year ago to 67,466 mt, and value climbed 10% to $281.1 million. This included a 7% increase in chilled pork exports to 36,929 mt, with value up 11% to $176.9 million.

Pork exports to South Korea climbed 33% in volume to 40,710 mt and rose 43% in value to $119 million. Most “U.S. pork products now enter the Korean market duty free under the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and high-quality, affordable U.S. pork is helping to underpin Korea’s record-breaking pork consumption,” USMEF noted, adding that it continues to help position U.S. pork in the region in new and exciting ways, including the addition of pulled pork to many restaurant menus, a selection of high-end sausages at convenience stores and a wide array of home meal replacement and snack items sold at retail and through e-commerce.

Through the first two months of 2018, other export highlights for U.S. pork include:

  • Pork exports to South America, led by strong growth in Colombia and Peru, were 9% ahead of last year’s pace in volume, at 17,855 mt, and 14% higher in value, at $43.1 million, with consumption growth in the region continuing to outpace domestic production.
  • Solid growth in Honduras, a doubling of exports to El Salvador and a steady performance in Guatemala pushed pork export volume to Central America 16% above last year’s pace to 12,255 mt, while value climbed 20% to $28.9 million. Exports also increased year over year to Nicaragua, Panama and Belize.
  • Exports to the Philippines, the mainstay destination for U.S. pork in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the region’s largest import market, increased 3% in volume to 4,746 mt and remained steady with last year’s pace in value, at $10.8 million. Exceptional growth in Vietnam -- with volume up 272% to 901 mt and value up 469% to $3.7 million -- pushed exports to the ASEAN region 18% higher in volume to 6,178 mt and 29% higher in value to $16.9 million. Exports also increased year over year to Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • In China/Hong Kong, pork export volume fell 14% year over year to 69,515 mt, but value increased 3% to $164 million. Muscle cut exports increased 7% to 28,775 mt, while variety meat exports declined 24% in volume to 40,740 mt, but with sharply higher prices, value dipped only 2% to $107.4 million. The Chinese government recently imposed a 25% tariff on imports of U.S. pork and pork variety meat, in addition to the 12% tariff already in effect in China. The higher tariff rate is not reflected in the January-February results, as it took effect April 2, but the additional tariff will put U.S. pork at a significant disadvantage compared to China’s other major suppliers: the European Union, Canada, Brazil and Chile. China’s total import demand has also slowed with its rebound in domestic production and a significant decrease in domestic hog prices.

Chilled beef shipments to Japan, Korea and Taiwan drive export growth

USMEF reported that beef export volume to leading market Japan declined in February to 20,314 mt, down 15% year over year. USMEF said the frozen beef safeguard tariff, which was temporarily at 50%, contributed to a slowdown in frozen shipments. However, February export value to Japan was down only slightly at $133.4 million. Through February, total exports to Japan were 4% below last year’s volume pace at 44,282 mt but still increased 9% in value to $282 million. This included an 18% increase in chilled beef export volume to 22,809 mt, with value up 29% to $175 million.

USMEF reported that Japan’s safeguard tariff on imports of frozen beef from the U.S. and other suppliers that do not have a free trade agreement with Japan expired March 31, so the tariff rate for both frozen and chilled imports from the U.S. is now 38.5%. Japan’s tariffs on imports of Australian chilled and frozen beef edged slightly lower on April 1 and now stand at 29.3% and 26.9%, respectively, under the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement.

Beef exports to South Korea maintained a torrid pace in February, increasing 24% from a year ago in volume to 16,193 mt and 31% in value to $112.4 million. Through February, exports to Korea climbed 18% in volume to 33,326 mt and were 32% above last year’s record value pace at $234.8 million. This included chilled beef exports of 7,231 mt, up 34% year over year, valued at $68 million, up 44%.

“U.S. beef is driving new consumption trends in Korea, where retailers and foodservice operators have intensified their focus on steak cuts and are highlighting features such as dry and wet aging. USMEF continues to educate the Korean meat trade and consumers about the quality and convenience of U.S. steaks in this increasingly protein-centric market.”

Through the first two months of 2018, other highlights for U.S. beef include:

  • Exports to Mexico, which is a critical destination for beef rounds, shoulder clods and variety meat, were 10% above last year’s pace in volume, at 39,987 mt, and were up 19% in value to $175 million. This included an 11% increase in variety meat export volume to 18,720 mt and an impressive 36% jump in variety meat value to $44.4 million.
  • Partly driven by demand for the Chinese New Year holiday, exports to Hong Kong jumped 41% from a year ago in volume to 22,807 mt and rose 61% in value to $168.6 million. Exports to China, which resumed in June 2017, totaled 1,187 mt and were valued at $11.1 million.
  • In Taiwan, an outstanding destination for chilled U.S. beef, exports increased 25% from a year ago in volume to 8,106 mt and 42% in value to $78.2 million. Chilled exports to Taiwan were up 53% in volume to 3,800 mt and 61% in value to $48 million as the U.S. holds 72% of Taiwan’s chilled beef market.
  • Exceptional growth in Chile and Colombia pushed exports to South America up 68% year over year in volume to 5,296 mt and up 62% in value to $25.2 million. Exports to Brazil, which resumed in April of last year, totaled 215 mt and were valued at $2 million.
  • Strong performances in Indonesia and Vietnam pushed beef exports to the ASEAN region 42% ahead of last year’s pace in volume to 6,794 mt and 34% higher in value to $36.7 million. The region is especially strong for beef variety meat, with exports up 74% in volume to 2,008 mt and up 93% in value to $4.4 million.
  • Strong growth in Angola and steady volumes to South Africa pushed beef exports to Africa up 26% year over year in volume to 1,981 mt and up 77% in value to $3.1 million.
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