Pork exports maintain record pace; beef exports lower

Pork exports through first three quarters were 16% ahead of last year's record pace in both volume and value.

November 5, 2020

4 Min Read
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September exports of U.S. pork increased 10% year-over-year, keeping 2020 exports on a record pace, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Beef exports to major Asian markets were fairly steady with last year but trended lower overall.

Pork exports reached 222,475 metric tons in September, with value increasing 6% to $563.2 million. USMEF relayed that shipments to China/Hong Kong remained higher than a year ago in September but made up a smaller share of the global total compared to recent months, as exports set a new record for Canada and increased year over year to Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Chile and the Caribbean.

Pork exports to the China/Hong Kong region outpaced last year by 23% in volume at 62,791 mt and 14% in value at $132 million and pushing exports through the third quarter to 800,747 mt, up 96% from a year ago, with value up 120% to $1.83 billion. However, September exports to China/Hong Kong accounted for 28% of total U.S. export volume and 23% of total value, compared to 37% and 33%, respectively, from January through August. USMEF pointed out that U.S. pork continues to face a 25% tariff disadvantage in China due to retaliatory duties related to U.S. Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Through the first three quarters of the year, pork exports were 16% ahead of last year's record pace in both volume (2.22 million mt) and value ($5.69 billion). The increases were even stronger for pork muscle cuts, jumping 22% in volume to 1.87 million mt and up 19% in value to $4.93 billion.

"Exporting countries are watching the hog production recovery in China very closely, because we know its demand for imported pork is moderating," USMEF president and chief executive officer Dan Halstrom said. "While USMEF is pleased to see U.S. pork exports to China/Hong Kong maintaining a strong pace, it is vitally important that our export destinations remain diversified. The U.S. industry continues to pursue this goal aggressively, both in the Asia Pacific region and the Western Hemisphere."

September beef exports were down 6% from a year ago to 103,277 mt, with value down 9% to $600.9 million. Coming off record performances in August, USMEF said exports to South Korea and Taiwan remained strong, and exports set another new record in China.

Following a record performance in August, USMEF reported that beef exports to Korea remained strong in September, up slightly from a year ago to 21,450 mt, although value slipped 7% to $140.7 million. Through September, exports to Korea trailed last year’s record pace by 3% in volume to 189,712 mt and 6% in value to $1.32 billion. Korea’s imports of chilled U.S. beef were on a record pace through September, increasing 15% from a year ago to 47,370 mt, with market share climbing to 64%.

Also coming off a record-large month, September exports to Taiwan were up 13% from a year ago to 5,756 mt, with value up 14% to $49.4 million. These results pushed January-to-September exports 1% ahead of last year’s record pace to 48,285 mt, with value down 3% to $413.6 million.

Still, COVID-19-related obstacles continued to negatively affect demand for U.S. beef in several key markets, especially Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

"Although restaurant traffic and foodservice activity are not back to normal in most Asian markets, USMEF is very encouraged by the recovery in Asia, and this was especially evident in the strong August and September exports of U.S. beef to Korea, Taiwan and China," Halstrom said. "As we close out the year, U.S. beef has a great opportunity to capture greater market share in Asia due to tightening supplies from Australia. While it will require more time, we also expect U.S. beef to regain momentum in regions where beef demand depends more heavily on travel and tourism and where e-commerce channels are not as well developed."

For January through September, beef exports trailed last year's pace by 8% in volume at 911,936 mt and 9% in value at $5.55 billion.

September exports of U.S. lamb were higher than a year ago in both volume -- up 37% to 1,971 mt -- and value -- up 13% to $2 million. Driven by strong demand in Mexico, January-to-September exports increased 36% to 16,399 mt, although value was down 1% to $19 million. In addition to Mexico, lamb muscle cut exports increased to Bermuda, Hong Kong, Japan and Kuwait.

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