February 9, 2022
U.S. beef exports greatly exceeded previous volume and value records in 2021, surpassing $10 billion for the first time, according to year-end data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Pork exports finished slightly below the record volume reached in 2020 but set a new value record, topping $8 billion for the first time.
Broad-based growth for U.S. beef exports
December beef exports totaled 121,429 metric tons (mt), up 1% from a year ago, while value climbed 33% to $991.8 million – the third largest month on record. These results pushed 2021 volume to 1.44 million mt, up 15% from a year ago and 7% above the previous record set in 2018. Export value soared to $10.58 billion, up 38% from 2020 and shattering the previous record (also from 2018) by 27%.
Beef exports to Korea, Japan and China/Hong Kong each exceeded $2 billion, setting new volume and value records in Korea and China/Hong Kong and a value record in Japan. Exports also set a new value record in Taiwan and reached new heights in Central America, Colombia and Indonesia. Global exports of U.S. beef variety meat also set a new value record of $1.09 billion, up 24% year-over-year.
"The beef export results are truly remarkable, especially considering the COVID-related obstacles in the global foodservice sector and all the supply-side and logistical challenges faced by the U.S. industry," said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. "Obviously our large Asian markets accounted for much of the growth, but it really takes broad-based global demand to reach these impressive levels. So, this success story is not just about Korea, Japan and China – but also a strong performance in Taiwan, excellent growth in Central and South America and a rebound in Mexico and Southeast Asia."
USMEF also reported that beef exports are capitalizing on the market access gains included in the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement. Exports to China/Hong Kong broke the $2 billion mark at $2.09 billion, up 114% from 2020, while volume climbed 87% to 240,827 mt. Direct exports to China, which started to gain significant traction in mid-2020, jumped 346% in volume (190,803 mt) and 413% in value ($1.59 billion). U.S. beef accounted for 6% of China’s total imports on a volume basis and 11% by value. Grain-fed beef now accounts for an estimated 11% of China’s imports with the U.S. as the largest supplier, providing approximately 68% of China’s grain-fed imports.
Key markets fuel new value record for pork
Pork exports trended lower in December, falling 17% from a year ago to 215,872 mt, valued at $604.3 million (down 12%). For 2021, export volume was 2.92 million mt, down 2% from the 2020 record, but export value still climbed 5% to a record $8.11 billion.
Record-large pork exports to Mexico, Central America, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and the Philippines helped offset a decline in demand from China in 2021. Exports also increased to Japan and South Korea, including larger volumes of chilled pork. Global exports of U.S. pork variety meat set a new value record of $1.24 billion, up 19% year-over-year.
"Entering last year, we knew it would be a daunting task to match the record level of pork exports reached in 2020 because of the recovery in China's swine herd and its rising domestic pork production," Halstrom said. "But the U.S. is less dependent on China than other major pork exporters, and this is definitely reflected in the 2021 results. Even with shipments to China falling nearly 30%, total U.S. exports posted a very strong performance thanks to outstanding growth in Latin America and other key markets."
While total exports to China/Hong Kong declined as anticipated in 2021, USMEF said the region remains a critical destination for U.S. pork variety meat. Combined muscle cut and variety meat exports to China/Hong Kong were down 29% from a year ago to 734,620 mt and value fell 27% to $1.74 billion, but variety meat exports increased significantly in both volume (328,974 mt, up 16%) and value ($810.4 million, up 22%).
A detailed summary of the 2021 red meat export results, including market-specific highlights, is available from the USMEF website.
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