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Beef, pork exports still lower despite rebound

Strong rebound for U.S meat exports still anticipated for remainder of 2020.

July exports of U.S. beef rebounded from recent lows but remained below 2019 levels, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). U.S. pork exports, which are on a record pace in 2020, were also down from a year ago in July but increased compared to June.

"With production returning to near-normal levels, we definitely saw an improvement in beef exports, though the recovery was not quite as strong as expected," USMEF president and chief executive officer Dan Halstrom said. "China's pork demand has moderated, and we are also entering a time when year-over-year gains are not nearly as dramatic, as exports to China began gaining momentum in mid-2019. But pork exports to Mexico showed encouraging signs of recovery in July, and we also saw promising growth in several emerging markets, including Vietnam and the Philippines.”

He continued, "It is also important to remember that the monthly export data is in the rearview mirror and that weekly export sales data, along with observations from our USMEF-China team, suggest that China's demand for both U.S. pork and beef will be strong through the balance of the year, including purchases for Chinese New Year.”

When combined with the rebound in other main markets growth in emerging markets and the return of the U.S. supply advantage, USMEF said it remains optimistic about a strong finish for U.S. red meat exports in 2020, despite many challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

July beef exports totaled 107,298 metric tons, up 36% from June but still 9% below last year. Export value was $647.8 million, the highest since March but down 10% from a year ago. July exports to China increased sharply year over year, and shipments trended higher to Taiwan, Canada and Hong Kong. July exports were lower than a year ago to Japan and South Korea and declined significantly to Mexico. For January through July, beef exports were also 9% below last year's pace in volume at 698,907 mt and 10% lower in value at $4.28 billion.

July pork exports totaled 222,035 mt, down 5% from a year ago, while export value fell 12% to $548.3 million. Exports increased year over year to China/Hong Kong, Canada, the Philippines, Vietnam and the Caribbean. Exports to Mexico remained below last year but were the largest since March, while shipments to Japan were also down from a year ago but were the largest since April. For January through July, pork exports remained 20% ahead of last year's record pace in volume at 1.78 million mt and 22% higher in value at $4.6 billion.

Beef exports to China continue to grow

USMEF said the U.S.-China Phase One Economic & Trade Agreement has sparked growth in China’s demand for U.S. beef since its March implementation. July exports were a record-large 2,350 mt, up 160% from a year ago, with value up 92% to $14.9 million. Through July, exports were 95% above last year’s pace in volume at 9,262 mt and 82% higher in value at $68.9 million.

Beef exports to Hong Kong also increased in July, reaching 7,179 mt, up 19% from a year ago, with value at $53.1 million, up 4%. Through July, exports to Hong Kong remained 7% below last year at 45,175 mt, with value down 10% to $371.4 million.

July exports to Taiwan, where U.S. beef exports have set seven consecutive annual value records, exceeded last year's volume by 10%, at 5,989 mt, with value steady at $48.2 million. Through July, exports were 4% below last year’s pace in volume at 35,090 mt and 7% lower in value at $300.4 million.

“Although there is still a long recovery ahead, the foodservice sectors in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China have rebounded more quickly than most other regions,” Halstrom said. “Phase One has also helped spark importer interest in the Chinese market, where U.S. beef is really just beginning to gain traction. There is unmet demand for high-quality, grain-fed beef in China, especially with Australian supplies tightening, and buyers are anxious to secure U.S. beef.”

Strong growth for U.S. pork in ASEAN region

According to USMEF, China/Hong Kong remained the leading destination for U.S. pork exports in July, at 71,853 mt, up 5% from a year ago but the lowest since October. Export value was down slightly from a year ago to $151.1 million. Through July, exports to the region were 131% above last year’s pace at 676,009 mt, with value up 171% to $1.57 billion.

USMEF said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region continued to shine for U.S. pork in July, with the Philippines joining Vietnam in a strong upward trend in demand. July exports to the Philippines climbed 90% higher than a year ago to 4,640 mt, with value soaring 141% to $11.8 million. Through July, exports to the Philippines pulled even with last year in volume at 21,735 mt and were 8% higher in value at $54.3 million.

July muscle cut exports to Vietnam set a new record of 2,443 mt, with value at $5.3 million. Total exports to Vietnam were the largest in more than 10 years, rising 278% from a year ago to 2,923 mt, with value up 552% to $6.3 million. This pushed January-to-July exports up 173% to 11,155 mt, with value up 212% to $24.2 million.

Region-wide exports to the ASEAN region were 25% above last year in volume at 36,736 mt and 31% higher in value at $89.9 million.

“The impact of African swine fever in the ASEAN region has been somewhat overshadowed by the situation in China, but several countries are struggling with the disease,” Halstrom said. “The increase in demand for imported pork surfaced most quickly in Vietnam, but growth opportunities are emerging throughout Southeast Asia.”

A complete summary of January through July exports of U.S. pork, beef and lamb, including market-specific highlights, is available online.

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