Beef Exports Up; Pork Down Slightly as Russian Impact Felt

Exports of U.S. beef moved 3 percent higher in volume in May, and a healthy 9 percent in value, while pork exports dipped 3 percent in volume and 3.6 percent in value, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

The inability of the United States to ship beef and pork to Russia continues to put a damper on U.S. red meat exports this year. Excluding Russia, beef export volume for May increased 12 percent and export volume for the first five months of 2013 rose 3.5 percent instead of falling 3 percent.

Similarly, May pork exports increased 3.5 percent in volume over last year’s totals if Russia is excluded. For January through May 2013, export volume would be down 5.8 percent instead of 9 percent if Russia is not included. An oversupply of domestic pork in many major export markets continues to pose a challenge to U.S. exports.

“The loss of a key market like Russia ripples through the red meat industry,” said U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng. “The absence of one of the largest meat purchasers in the world affects the volume of product sold and, more importantly, the price that other customers need to pay for it in a competitive marketplace.”

Summary of May beef results
In May, total U.S. beef (muscle cut and variety meat) exports rose 3 percent over last year’s levels to 97,820 metric tons valued at $513.6 million, a 9 percent increase. They accounted for 10 percent of beef muscle cut production and 12.7 percent of beef and variety meat production, similar levels to last year.

For January through May, export volumes dipped 3 percent to 440,840 metric tons valued at $2.26 billion, a 3 percent increase over last year’s record-setting pace.

The value of beef exports in May equated to $231.67 per head of fed slaughter, up from $207.09 last year. The year-to-date export value averaged $220.59 per head, up more than $10 from last year’s total of $209.97.

Markets where access for U.S. beef has improved this year led the way in May. Japan jumped 74 percent to 28,122 metric tons, just 8 percent shy of totals posted in May 2003.

“We were confident that the market for U.S. beef in Japan would rebound when our access expanded,” said Seng. “Our team in Japan is working aggressively to explore untapped niches to maintain the growth momentum for beef.”

Beef exports also rose to Hong Kong (56 percent to 7,182 metric tons) while Taiwan’s totals increased from 282 metric tons last year to 2,720 metric tons this May.

Exports were also steady to higher for: Canada (13,975 metric tons, +1 percent), Egypt (11,364 metric tons, steady), Central/South America (3,979 metric tons, +15 percent driven by larger volumes to Chile) and the Caribbean (1,678 metric tons, +2 percent on larger volumes to Jamaica).

Beef exports to Russia in May fell from 7,906 metric tons last year to 4 metric tons this year. For the year, exports to Russia are down 99 percent in volume (from 30,547 metric tons to 35 metric tons) and 99 percent in value (from $133.77 million).

Besides Russia, countries where beef exports remain challenged include Mexico (15,140 metric tons, -4.5 percent), South Korea (7,367 metric tons, -33 percent), and ASEAN (1,372 metric tons, -59 percent on smaller volumes to Vietnam and the Philippines).

Mexico is buying less beef as consumers turn to more affordable proteins like poultry and pork. U.S. poultry exports to Mexico were up 19 percent through May to 356,253 metric tons. At the same time, South Korea’s increased domestic beef production, combined with lower-priced Australian product, has dampened demand for high-quality U.S. beef.

Through May, Japan was the leading destination for U.S. beef with exports up 56 percent. They accounted for 20 percent of all U.S. beef exports by volume and 24 percent of export value. Mexico was No. 2 in volume but Canada was second in value. South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Egypt rounded out the top seven in value. The volume ranking was: Japan, Mexico, Canada, Egypt, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Summary of May pork results
Total pork exports in May improved over 2013 trends but still dipped 3.3 percent to 180,637 metric tons valued at $505.4 million, a 3.6 percent decline from last year. They accounted for 23 percent of muscle cut production and 26.4 percent of muscle cuts plus variety meat, similar to last May.

For the first five months of the year, exports were down 9 percent to 882,905 metric tons valued at $2.47 billion, down 8 percent.

The value of pork exports in May equated to $54.85 per head of fed slaughter, down from $56.47 last year. The year-to-date export value averaged $53.14 per head, down from $58.36 last year.

May pork exports were led by another strong month for Mexico (52,295 metric tons, +11 percent) and steady year-over-year volumes to Japan (37,108 metric tons). Exports also were larger for Central/South America (10,008 metric tons, +58 percent, led by growth to Colombia, Chile and Honduras), ASEAN (5,313 metric tons, +61 percent on larger volumes to the Philippines), Caribbean (4,210 metric tons, +85 percent with larger exports to the Dominican Republic, Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago) and Taiwan (2,688 metric tons, +142 percent).

“The volume of U.S. pork that Mexico consumes is essential for our industry, and that is why we have focused resources on driving up per-capita pork consumption there,” Seng explained. “On the other hand, Japan is the leading value market for pork exports, and there we are concentrated on higher value branded and chilled products.”

Pork exports to Russia in May fell from 12,250 metric tons last year to zero this year. For the year, exports to Russia are down 84 percent in volume and value (from 37,075 metric tons to 5,770 metric tons and from $109.5 million to $17.9 million).

May pork exports to Canada were down 3 percent to 19,093 metric tons but remained up 3 percent for January through May. Exports to the China/Hong Kong region dipped 9 percent in May to 34,543 metric tons, but were larger than the previous two months. South Korea (8,645 metric tons, -19 percent) and Australia/New Zealand (4,251 metric tons, -28 percent) also were down in May.

Through May, Mexico was the largest volume destination for U.S. pork but Japan was No. 1 in value. China, Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia and the Philippines rounded out the top eight countries in volume, with the same markets leading for value: Japan, Mexico, Canada, China, Korea, Australia, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Canada and the Philippines were the only top markets that saw export growth in the first five months of the year, but exports were robust to many of the smaller markets. Larger domestic supplies and market access issues have created a challenging atmosphere for U.S. pork exports thus far this year but exports showed positive signs of growth in May.

Lamb exports up sharply
Lamb exports reached three consecutive months above the 1,200 metric tons per month mark with 1,472 metric tons exported in May, an increase of 70 percent over last year. This put January through May totals up 14 percent to 5,840 metric tons with value over $13 million, up 30 percent. Export growth has been led by top markets Mexico and Canada, but also to Bermuda and Saudi Arabia.

Complete export results for U.S. beef, pork and lamb are available online.

Editor’s notes:
  • Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat unless otherwise noted
  • One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds