Global Pork Exports on Record Pace in 2016; Beef Exports up Slightly

Driven by strong growth from the European Union, global exports of pork muscle cuts in the first half of 2016 were up 24 percent year-over-year to 3.1 million metric tons (mt) – well above the previous record pace established in 2012 (2.6 million mt). EU exports surged 56 percent from a year ago to 1.26 million mt. Exports from the United States were higher, but increased just 2 percent to 871,190 million mt. Among other major suppliers, Brazil’s exports were up 54 percent to 306,030 mt and Canada also achieved double-digit growth (499,321 mt, up 11 percent). Chile’s exports trended lower (62,282 mt, -5 percent).


When including muscle cuts and variety meat, first-half global pork exports surpassed 4.1 million mt, also up 24 percent.

A notable trend in 2016 is that export growth is very dependent on shipments to the China/Hong Kong region. Reported pork muscle cut exports to China/Hong Kong totaled 1.028 million mt (+169 percent) with exports more than doubling from each of the top four major suppliers and increasing 32 percent from Chile. When excluding China/Hong Kong, the leading suppliers’ exports to the rest of the world were down 1 percent to 1.97 million mt, with growth from the EU (+9 percent) and Brazil (+28 percent) offset by decreases from the U.S. (-8 percent) and Canada (-12 percent).


Combining muscle cuts and variety meat, exports to China/Hong Kong nearly doubled in the first half (1.75 million mt, +99 percent). Pork imports entering other major destinations were mixed, with imports increasing for Japan (533,134 mt, +10 percent), Russia (129,014 mt, +25 percent) and the Philippines (125,572 mt, +28 percent), but declining for Mexico (441,491 mt, -3 percent), and Australia (85,879 mt, -3 percent). Imports were basically steady for Korea (239,888 mt), the United States (251,002 mt) and Canada (87,869 mt).

First-half beef/beef variety meat exports from the top 12 suppliers were up just 1 percent from a year ago to 3.66 million mt. Strong growth from Brazil (697,640 mt, +15 percent) and an uptick from the U.S. (513,321 mt, +3 percent) were offset by the sharp decrease from Australia (612,665 mt, -17 percent) and slower exports from India (584,000 mt, -1 percent) and New Zealand (286,402 mt, -5 percent). Exports from smaller suppliers were steady-to-higher, including the EU (193,087 mt, +10 percent), Canada (167,466 mt, +11 percent), Paraguay (152,484 mt, +8 percent), Mexico (97,301 mt, +12 percent) and Belarus (84,523 mt, +22 percent). Exports from Uruguay (151,333 mt) and Argentina (124,092 mt) were also up slightly.

Unit export values were lower for all of the main beef exporters except for Argentina, where a 3 percent increase was driven by several factors, including limited availability due to herd-rebuilding and heavy reliance on high-value exports to the EU and kosher beef exports to Israel. The most significant drop in unit values was in North America, reflecting changes in the U.S. market. Unit export values for Canada fell 16 percent, while values for the U.S. and Mexico were down 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively.


For the world’s top beef importers, growth in China (306,658 mt, +58 percent), Vietnam (265,803 mt, +33 percent), Egypt (233,401 mt, +16 percent), Korea (202,756 mt, +28 percent), the EU (131,136 mt, +3 percent) and Chile (105,996 mt, +51 percent) offset smaller imports entering the U.S. (573,585 mt, -11 percent), Hong Kong (348,412 mt, -3 percent), Japan (270,953 mt, -2 percent), Russia (209,434 mt, -11 percent) and Canada (100,606 mt, -5 percent). The increase in U.S. production and the decline in Australia have clearly shifted the dynamics this year, especially in Japan and Korea, where imports of chilled U.S. beef are up by more than 50 percent. Brazil’s weak real and a slump in domestic demand due to the recessionary economy helped fuel exports in the first half, but the real has recently strengthened and Brazil’s exports slowed in July.

Beef Imports

While it is to a lesser degree than pork, China is now a crucially important beef destination, especially for the South American suppliers, and China’s demand for grass-fed beef will be critical to export volumes through the rest of 2016. When examining combined imports for the Greater China region of China, Hong Kong and Vietnam, first half imports exceeded 900,000 mt, up 22 percent.

  • Data sources: Global Trade Atlas and USMEF estimates.likk
  • NOTE: June pork import data has not yet been reported for Mexico and the Philippines, so these totals are projected based on January-May data.