Beef, pork exports strong, with values reaching 2016 highs

August beef export volume highest since October 2014.

Beef export volume in August was the largest in nearly two years, and both beef and pork exports posted the highest monthly values of 2016, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

August beef export volume climbed 27% from a year ago to 106,818 metric tons – the highest since October 2014 and breaking the 100,000 mt mark for the first time this year. Export value was $566.8 million, up 14%. For January through August, export volume was up 6% to 747,706 mt, while value was down 7% to just more than $4 billion.

Exports accounted for 13.5% of total beef production in August and 10% for muscle cuts only – each up about 1% from a year ago. For January through August, these ratios were roughly steady with last year at 13% and 10%, respectively. Export value per head of fed slaughter was $256.73 in August, down 4% from a year ago, and $252.50 for January through August, down 12%.

Pork exports were up 16% from a year ago to 186,689 mt, the largest volume ever posted in August. Export value was up 19% to $512.76 million. For January through August, pork export volume was 1.48 million mt, up 5% from the same period last year. Export value moved 1% ahead of last year’s pace to $3.78 billion.

With August pork production at the largest level so far this year and record large for the month of August, exports accounted for 24% of total production and 20% for muscle cuts only, up slightly from a year ago. For January through August, exports accounted for 25% of total pork production and 21% for muscle cuts only – roughly steady with last year. Export value per head slaughtered was $49.36 in August, up 7% from a year ago and exceeding last year’s average for the third consecutive month. For the first eight months of the year, the export value per head averaged $49.37, down 1%.

Variety meat exports provided a strong boost to the August totals for both beef and pork. Compared to a year ago, beef variety meat exports were up 25% in volume to 31,582 mt and up 28% in value to $85.8 million. Pork variety meat exports totaled 44,563 mt in volume at a value of $88.2 million – up 44% and 51%, respectively.

“U.S. livestock producers deserve some good news in what has been a tough year, and this upward trend in exports is very encouraging,” Philip Seng, USMEF president and chief executive, said. “Currently, U.S. beef and pork are very competitive as the production of our key competitors – Australia and the European Union – has moderated, and prices have jumped. As U.S. competitiveness continues to improve, we remain optimistic that exports will maintain positive momentum through the end of this year and into 2017.”

Beef exports record-large to Korea, Taiwan

August beef exports exceeded year-ago levels in most major markets, setting new monthly records in South Korea (17,454 mt, up 61% from a year ago) and Taiwan (4,965 mt, up 23%). For January through August, market-specific highlights for U.S. beef included:

  • Japan was the leading market in both volume (170,665 mt, up 16% from a year ago) and value ($984.2 million, up 9%), including strong growth for high-value chilled muscle cuts and beef tongues.
  • Despite the persistently weak peso, exports to Mexico increased 8% from a year ago in volume (154,376) while falling 9% in value ($649.6 million), led by larger volumes of shoulder clods and rounds.
  • In Korea, the increasing popularity of U.S. steaks – especially at retail – helped drive exports up 28% from a year ago in volume (107,855 mt) and 11% in value ($628.8 million).
  • U.S. beef holds more than two-thirds of the chilled beef market in Taiwan, where exports increased 6% in volume (25,872 mt) while falling 3% in value ($213.5 million).
  • Expanded access has created new opportunities for U.S. beef in Indonesia, where exports grew four-fold in volume (4,278 mt) and more than doubled in value ($18.6 million). Along with solid growth in Vietnam, these results drove exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region 11% higher in volume (15,160 mt), although value fell 9% ($83.8 million).

Pork exports rebound in Mexico and Japan

Pork exports to Mexico continued to show improvement in August, easily reaching 2016 highs in both volume (64,620 mt, up 8% from a year ago) and value ($129.3 million, up 17%). For January through August, exports to Mexico were still down 6% in volume (444,170 mt) and 2% in value ($808.3 million) but gained ground on last year’s pace.

Chilled pork exports to Japan have been on a record pace all year (up 14% year-over-year to 147,000 mt), but a slump in frozen volumes has held back overall results. With chilled pork continuing to perform well in August and frozen exports rebounding, exports to Japan climbed 25% from a year ago in volume (35,154 mt) and 27% in value ($151.2 million). Through August, exports to Japan were down 8% in volume (258,495 mt) and 6% in value ($1.03 billion).

Other January-to-August export results for U.S. pork included:

  • Exports to China/Hong Kong remained well ahead of their 2015 pace, up 76% in volume (370,238 mt) and 61% in value ($711.8 million). China/Hong Kong’s pork imports from all suppliers remain higher year over year but have slowed from the peak levels seen earlier this year. Imports are expected to continue to moderate this fall, but there are indications that buying could trend upward again prior to the Chinese New Year.
  • While pork exports to Korea remain lower than last year’s large totals in both volume (87,739 mt, down 28%) and value ($231.7 million, down 35%), exports trended strongly upward in August and are well positioned for a strong finish in 2016.
  • Led by mainstay markets Honduras and Guatemala and strong growth in Nicaragua, U.S. pork continues to have a big year in Central America, with volume up 18% (41,947 mt) and value up 11% ($99 million) from a year ago.
  • Exports to Canada remained slightly ahead of last year, up 2% in volume (131,104 mt) and 1% in value ($522.9 million).
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