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Latest export stats highlight South Korea's hunger for U.S. pork, beef

Beef demand strong, but pork exports still facing headwinds.

Krissa Welshans 1

November 5, 2018

9 Min Read
bring imports exports port container ship FDS

U.S. beef exports remained very strong in September, while pork exports continued to be affected by retaliatory duties in China and Mexico, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Robust pork and beef exports to South Korea continue to be a major success story this year, results showed. 

“Beef exports cooled from the record results posted in August but were still significantly higher year over year,” USMEF said. “Pork muscle cut exports improved over last September’s volume but were offset by sharply lower shipments of pork variety meat.”

Data showed that September beef exports totaled 110,160 metric tons, up 6% from a year ago, with value at $687.1 million, up 11%. For January through September, beef exports were just over 1 million mt, up 9% from a year ago, while value surged 18% to $6.2 billion. For beef muscle cuts only, the year-over-year increases were even more impressive, jumping 13% in volume to 777,740 mt and 20% in value to $5.54 billion.

Exports accounted for 13.7% of total beef production in September and 11.4% for muscle cuts only, up from 12.5% and 10.4% a year ago, respectively. For the first three quarters of 2018, exports accounted for 13.5% of total production, up from 12.8%, and 11.1% for muscle cuts, up one full percentage point from last year. Beef export value equated to $334.63 per head of fed slaughter in September and $320.85 for January through September, each up 16% from a year ago.

According to USMEF, September pork export volume was down 2% from a year ago to 179,423 mt, while export value fell 7% to $470.2 million. Pork muscle cuts were 2% higher than a year ago at 146,542 mt, but value still declined 3% to $397.6 million. September variety meat exports dropped significantly in both volume to 32,881 mt, down 18% and in value to $72.6 million, down 21%. For January through September, combined pork and pork variety meat exports were 1% above last year’s record pace at 1.81 million mt and were 2% higher in value at $4.79 billion. For pork muscle cuts only, exports increased 6% from a year ago in volume to 1.46 million mt, with value up 3% to just under $4 billion.

September exports accounted for 24.8% of total pork production, up from 23.6% a year ago. For muscle cuts only, the percentage exported was 21.8% – up two full points from last September. For January through September, pork exports accounted for 26.1% of total production, down from 26.5% last year, but the percentage of muscle cuts exported increased from 22.1% to 22.7%. Export value per head slaughtered was down 1% from a year ago in September to $48.72 and was at $52.46 for January through September.

"With a full quarter still to be reported, beef export value records are already being surpassed in some markets, and global value is on track for $8 billion by year’s end," USMEF president and chief executive officer Dan Halstrom said. "Pork exports have also held up relatively well, but unfortunately, the obstacles U.S. pork faces in China and Mexico are putting a lot of pressure on export value."

New beef value record in Korea

South Korea has been the growth pacesetter for U.S. beef exports in 2018, and September was no exception, according to USMEF.

Exports to Korea were up 22% from a year ago in volume to 19,116 mt and were 29% higher in value at $143.1 million. January through September exports reached 180,495 mt, up 37% from a year ago, while export value soared 51% to $1.29 billion, already breaking last year’s full-year value record. These results included a 28% increase in chilled beef exports to 40,372 mt, with value up 38% to $391 million.

The U.S. share of Korea’s total beef imports has increased sharply this year, from 44.7% to 48.7%, as U.S. product underpins Korea’s growing beef consumption, USMEF said.

September beef exports to leading market Japan were up 4% from a year ago in both volume, at 28,086 mt, and value, at $172.3 million. For the first three quarters of 2018, exports to Japan were up 7% from a year ago in volume to 252,871 mt, while value increased 10% to $1.59 billion. Chilled beef exports to Japan were down 1% to 111,908 mt, but value still climbed 7% to $895 million.

On a value basis, USMEF said the U.S. is the top supplier to Japan, comprising 46.8% of imports, up slightly from the first three quarters of 2017. On a volume basis, however, U.S. beef accounted for just under 42% of total imports, down from 43% in the same period last year and trailing Australia’s 48.6% share.

With the Comprehensive & Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) set to enter into force Dec. 30, USMEF said the tariff advantage Australian beef enjoys will be extended to all of U.S. beef’s major competitors in Japan with another duty reduction on April 1, 2019, the start of Japan’s fiscal year.

For January through September, USMEF said other highlights for U.S. beef exports included:

  • Beef exports to Taiwan were up 32% from a year ago in volume to 43,539 mt, while value reached $403.8 million – up 36% and just short of last year’s annual record of $409.7 million. Chilled exports to Taiwan were up 29% in volume to 17,523 mt and 36% in value to $221 million, as the U.S. captured 75% of Taiwan’s chilled beef market – the highest market share of any Asian destination.

  • Exports to Mexico were up 1% from a year ago in volume to 177,906 mt and 8% higher in value at $783.1 million. With a strong fourth quarter, exports to Mexico should top $1 billion for the first time since 2015.

  • After slowing in the summer months, beef exports to China/Hong Kong rebounded in September to 10,076 mt, valued at $82 million. This pushed January-to-September results 6% higher than a year ago in volume to 89,660 mt and 28% higher in value to $720.8 million. This included exports to China of 5,114 mt, valued at $44.2 million.

  • A strong performance in the Philippines and solid growth in Vietnam pushed beef exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region 13% ahead of last year’s pace in volume to 33,924 mt and 25% higher in value to $186.6 million.

  • Exports to South Africa were 8% higher year over year in volume at 11,508 mt, while value jumped 28% to $11.7 million. Exports to Angola also increased significantly in both volume, up 15% to 2,643 mt, and value, up 45% to $3.6 million. Exports to Africa (which do not include Egypt) were down 8% in volume to 16,880 mt but still increased 8% in value to $18.9 million.

Korea, Latin America shine for U.S. pork

USMEF reported that September pork exports to South Korea increased 33% from a year ago in volume to 12,486 mt and 30% in value to $33.6 million. Through September, exports increased 43% in volume to 172,022 mt, while export value climbed 48% to $489.2 million – already topping the 2017 year-end total of $475 million.

“U.S. share of Korea’s total pork imports has increased dramatically this year, from 31% to 35%, even as imports also trended higher from most of Korea’s main suppliers,” USMEF noted.

Pork exports to South America continued to gain momentum in September, led by strong growth in Colombia and Peru and a rebound in exports to Chile. Through the first three quarters of the year, exports to the region were 27% ahead of last year’s record pace in volume at 92,252 mt, and were 22% higher in value at $227.9 million.

With steady growth in mainstay markets Honduras and Guatemala and sharply higher shipments to Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, January through September exports to Central America increased 20% in volume to 58,756 mt and 17% in value to $138.7 million. This region is also coming off a record year in 2017, USMEF added.

Exports to the Dominican Republic have already broken the records set last year, with volume climbing 35% to 32,859 mt and value up 29% to $71.6 million.

According to USMEF, other January-to-September results for U.S. pork exports included:

  • Exports to Japan increased 2% year over year in both volume, at 295,346 mt, and value, at $1.22 billion. This included a 2% decrease in chilled pork volume to 155,395 mt, while value held steady at $750 million. The U.S. share of Japan’s total imports has held relatively steady this year at 35%, but with CPTPP set to take effect Dec. 30 and with the Japan-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement also on track to be implemented in the coming months, USMEF said U.S. pork will soon face significant tariff disadvantages in its leading value market.

  • Despite a fourth straight month in which shipments were below last year’s level, exports to leading volume market Mexico remained 1% ahead of last year’s record pace at 589,235 mt. Export value, however, has felt intense pressure from Mexico’s retaliatory duties, dropping 8% to $1.01 billion. Canada’s exports to Mexico during this period were up 20% to 93,346 mt, with value , up 25% to $126.5 million. EU exports also surged to Mexico in July, up 747% to 1,809 mt, and in August, up 733% to 2,343 mt, and are expected to continue gaining momentum as Spain, Denmark and Germany take advantage of Mexico’s recently implemented duty-free pork quota.

  • Exports to China/Hong Kong declined 26% from a year ago to 277,779 mt, with value dropping 14% to $667.9 million. This region is the largest destination for U.S. pork variety meat exports, which were down 27% in volume to 177,747 mt and 13% in value to $466.2 million.

  • Led by strong growth in the Philippines and Vietnam, exports to the ASEAN region increased 40% in volume to 49,406 mt and 29% in value to $123.5 million. This was fueled by a surge in pork variety meat exports to the region, which more than doubled over last year in both volume, up 147% to 20,111 mt, and value, up 122% to $32.2 million.

  • With solid growth in Australia and a steady performance in New Zealand, exports to Oceania were 11% ahead of last year’s pace in volume, at 62,360 mt, and were 10% higher in value, at $182.3 million.

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