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Beef exports post another strong month; pork exports lower

Beef exports to Japan largest of post-BSE era.

U.S. beef exports posted another outstanding performance in August, remaining well above last year’s pace, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). August pork exports increased from the previous month but were down slightly year over year.

August beef exports totaled 112,069 metric tons, up 5% from a year ago and the largest of 2017. Export value was the second highest on record, at $679.1 million – up 20% from a year ago and trailing only the record-high value of $688.8 million reached in October 2014. For January through August, beef exports increased 10% in volume to 823,433 mt and 16% in value to $4.65 billion compared to the first eight months of 2016.

Exports accounted for 12.5% of total U.S. beef production in August and 10.4% for muscle cuts only, compared to 13.7% and 10.3%, respectively, last year. For January through August, beef exports accounted for 12.8% of total production (down from 13.2%) and 10.1% for muscle cuts (steady with last year). Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $290.05 in August, up 13% from a year ago. Through August, per-head export value was up 9% to $275.81.

Pork exports totaled 183,658 mt in August, down 2% year over year, valued at $511.4 million, down 0.3%. The January-to-August volume remained 9% above last year’s record pace at 1.61 million mt, while export value increased 11% to $4.21 billion.

Exports accounted for 23.1% of total pork production in August, down from 24.1% a year ago, and 19.2% for muscle cuts only, down from 20% last year. For the first eight months of the year, exports accounted for 26.9% of total production, up from 25.4% last year. For pork muscle cuts only, the percentage exported was 22.4%, up from 21.3%. Export value per head slaughtered trended lower in August at $47.98, down 3% from a year ago, but the January-to-August average was still up 8% to $53.28.

“As we head into the final quarter, 2017 is shaping up as a very solid year for red meat exports, but one in which the U.S. industry still faces significant challenges,” USMEF chief executive officer Philip Seng said. “We have new pork plants coming on line and strong cattle-on-feed numbers, which sends a positive signal to our international customers about product availability, but the international markets are increasingly competitive, so we must continue to aggressively pursue new opportunities for U.S. red meat products in both our traditional mainstay destinations and in emerging markets.”

Beef exports to Japan largest of post-BSE era

August beef exports to leading market Japan totaled 31,001 mt, up 22% from a year ago and the largest of the post-bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) era. Export value to Japan increased 35% to $200.05 million, breaking the $200 million mark for the first time since May 1996, USMEF reported. For January through August, exports to Japan were up 23% in volume to 209,502 mt and 30% in value to $1.28 billion.

Japan’s frozen beef safeguard was triggered in late July, increasing the duty on frozen beef imports from suppliers without a trade agreement with Japan -- including the U.S. -- from 38.5% to 50%. USMEF said the true impact of the higher duty rate will be revealed over the next few months, but August demand was not significantly affected.

Frozen exports totaled 9,991 mt, up 15% from a year ago and just 2% below July. Chilled shipments accelerated at a faster rate, but this was already the trend prior to the duty rate increase on frozen beef, USMEF noted. Chilled exports were 16,732 mt, up 62% year over year and up 27% from July.

Beef exports to South Korea dipped a slight 2% from a year ago in volume to 17,188 mt but were still the largest of 2017, while August value increased 19% to $116.9 million. Through August, exports to Korea increased 8% in volume to 116,132 mt and 19% in value to $746.3 million. These totals included an impressive 88% increase in chilled beef exports to 27,378 mt, with value up 94% to $243.8 million.

After a slow start to the year, exports to Hong Kong continued to climb in August, with volume up 26% year over year to 9,250 mt and value increasing 41% to $67.7 million. January-to-August exports increased 14% in volume to 74,629 mt and were 24% higher in value at $485.5 million. Since the market opened to U.S. beef in mid-June, beef exports to China totaled 473 mt, with a value at just under $6 million.

According to USMEF, other January-to-August highlights for U.S. beef exports included:

  • Despite trending lower in August, beef exports to Taiwan increased 10% from a year ago in volume to 28,524 mt and were up 20% in value to $256.4 million. This included chilled beef exports of 11,854 mt (up 17%), valued at $140 million (up 22 %). U.S. beef holds more than 70% of Taiwan’s chilled beef market, the highest of any Asian destination.
  • Led by Chile, Peru and Colombia, beef exports to South America increased 21 % year over year in volume to 18,799 mt and were up 22% in value to $74.5 million.
  • Growing foodservice and retail demand for U.S. beef in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region helped push exports 74% higher year over year in volume to 26,359 mt, with value up 55% to $130.1 million. Exports to Indonesia and Vietnam were double last year’s level, while strong growth was also achieved in the Philippines, the region’s largest market for U.S. beef.
  • Exports to Canada saw a strong increase in August, pushing the year-to-date volume up 3% to 77,727 mt and value up 6% to $543.7 million.
  • South Africa continued to gain momentum as a strong market for U.S. beef variety meat, maintaining its position as the fourth-largest destination for these items by volume. January-to-August variety meat exports totaled 9,910 mt, up 249% from a year ago.

Steady pork exports to Mexico

Pork exports to Mexico remained on pace for a sixth consecutive volume record in August, with volume up slightly from a year ago to 65,037 mt. Export value also increased slightly to $129.6 million. Through August, exports increased 18% in volume to 522,227 mt and rose 22% in value to $984.1 million.

Exports to Japan, the leading value market for U.S. pork, declined in August as volume dipped 9% to 31,863 mt and value was down 7% to $140 million. Through August, exports to Japan remained modestly higher year over year in both volume, up 1% to 260,352 mt, and value, up 4% to $1.07 billion. August chilled pork exports to Japan were the largest since March, although the January-to-August volume of 142,927 mt was still down 3% from last year’s record pace. Chilled export value through August was $674.2 million, up 3% from a year ago. USMEF explained that the U.S. competes primarily with Canadian pork in Japan’s high-value chilled pork market.

Other January-to-August highlights for U.S. pork exports included:

  • While August exports slowed year over year, U.S. pork continued to capitalize on strong red meat consumption growth in South Korea. Year-to-date pork exports to Korea climbed 27% in volume to 111,271 mt and 32% in value to $305 million. “Korea is an especially strong destination for pork used in further processing, but the market is highly competitive with the U.S., Chile and the European Union shipping pork to Korea duty-free under their respective free trade agreements (FTAs),” USMEF explained. “Canadian pork also enjoys reduced duties under an FTA with Korea.”
  • In the China/Hong Kong region, August export volume was lower than a year ago but rebounded compared to the previous month. August exports were 34,616 mt, down 8% year over year but up 8% from July. Export value was $78.3 million, up 1% year over year and 14% above July. January-to-August exports to the region were 8% below last year’s pace in volume, at 341,080 mt, but were down only 1% in value at $705.5 million.
  • Pork exports to South America, led by strong growth in Colombia, Chile and Peru, were at a record pace, with export volume nearly doubling to 63,922 mt, up 96%, and value doubling to $164.8 million.
  • Despite slowing modestly year over year in August, pork exports to Central America were also on a record pace. Led by mainstay market Honduras, export volume was up 5% from a year ago to 43,917 mt, with value up 7% to $105.7 million.
  • Strong growth in the Philippines and Singapore fueled a 22% increase in pork exports to the ASEAN region to 30,284 mt, with value up 33% to $78.4 million.
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