U.S. beef exports set new volume and value records in May, topping $1 billion for the fourth time this year, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). While pork exports were well below last year’s large totals, shipments were the largest of 2022 in both volume and value. U.S. lamb exports continued to trend higher, led by growth in the Caribbean and Mexico.
May beef exports reached 135,006 metric tons (mt), up 1% from the previous high posted in May 2021. Export value climbed 20% to $1.09 billion, breaking the March 2022 record. For January through May, beef exports increased 4% from a year ago to 613,266 mt, valued at $5.14 billion (up 34%).
“For U.S. beef exports to maintain a $1 billion-per-month pace is tremendous under any circumstances, but it is especially remarkable given the strong U.S. dollar, continued shipping and logistical challenges and the economic uncertainty our industry and international customers face today,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Across a wide range of markets, the momentum for retail beef sales achieved during the pandemic continues, and it’s now complemented by a strong rebound in the foodservice sector. May volume was actually down slightly to both Japan and South Korea, and yet exports still set a new record. That’s a great indication of soaring, broad-based demand for U.S. beef.”
May pork exports were 224,677 mt, down 21% from the large year-ago total but the highest monthly volume since November. Export value was $655.1 million, down 24% but also the highest since November. Through May, pork exports were down 20% from a year ago to 1.07 million mt, valued at just under $3 billion (down 18%).
“On the pork side, exports are still trailing the enormous totals from the first half of last year, but we’re seeing upward momentum in several markets,” Halstrom explained. “Shipments to Mexico are on a record pace and demand is strong across most of the Western Hemisphere. China’s hog prices have increased about 40% since mid-June, which supports our forecast for some rebound in China’s demand for imported pork toward the end of the year. Even when China pulls larger volumes from other suppliers, this has a positive impact for U.S. pork in a number of international markets.”
Beef exports to Korea, Japan and China/Hong Kong already top $1 billion
Last year exports exceeded $2 billion to each of the three top destinations for U.S. beef: South Korea, Japan and China/Hong Kong. Export value to all three is up significantly in 2022, with each topping $1 billion in just five months.
May exports to Korea were down 8% from a year ago to 27,016 mt, but still climbed 18% in value to $265.1 million. Through May, exports to Korea were 3% ahead of last year’s record pace in volume (125,673), while soaring 41% in value to $1.29 billion. Korea just announced a new 100,000 mt, duty-free quota for beef imports as part of a package to help deal with inflation, effective through the end of this year. Through free trade agreements, duties are already reduced on imported beef from the U.S. (10.7% for 2022), Australia (16%), Canada (18.6%), New Zealand (18.6%) and the European Union (10%). Mexico and Uruguay do not have FTAs and pay Korea’s full duty of 40%.
Results in Japan were similar to Korea, with May export value up 9% to $226.9 million, despite a 6% drop in volume (28,780 mt). For January through May, exports to Japan were 3% below last year’s pace at 127,622 mt but still climbed 21% in value to $1.04 billion.
Despite COVID lockdowns impacting product movement and foodservice activity in some of China’s largest cities in May, beef exports to China/Hong Kong still climbed 21% from a year ago to 25,177 mt, valued at $218.8 million (up 25%). This included a new record for beef variety meat exports to China (3,976 mt, up 224%, valued at $15 million, up 169%). Through May, total exports to the China/Hong Kong region were 26% ahead of last year’s record pace in volume (110,551 mt) and 43% higher in value at just over $1 billion.
Other January-May results for U.S. beef exports include:
- Following a record April performance, May beef exports to Taiwan were steady with a year ago at 5,623 mt, while value increased 12% to $63.9 million. Through May, exports to Taiwan increased 34% from a year ago to 31,512 mt, while value climbed to $378.3 million – 70% ahead of last year’s record pace.
- The continued rebound in foodservice activity in the Caribbean is fueling strong demand for U.S. beef, with January-May exports increasing 39% to 11,507 mt and value nearly doubling to $100.4 million (up 97%). Export value more than doubled to the Dominican Republic ($40.9 million, up 135%), more than tripled to Jamaica ($10.2 million, up 214%) and increased sharply to the Bahamas ($12.7 million, up 74%).
- Beef demand in the ASEAN region has strengthened in 2022, with exports through May climbing 12% to 25,468 mt, valued at $188.2 million (up 68%). Exports to Indonesia, where foot-and-mouth disease has recently taken a toll on domestic production, increased 17% to 10,621 mt, while value soared 87% to $64 million. Exports to the Philippines were 9% higher in volume (8,160 mt) and climbed 75% in value ($61.4 million). Exports to Vietnam were steady with last year at 3,668 mt, while value jumped 37% to $30.8 million.
- Led by growth to top market Guatemala, along with Panama and Honduras, beef exports to Central America continue to build on last year’s record. Through May, shipments were up 11% to 9,354 mt, valued at $65.3 million (up 29%).
- Fueled by variety meat demand in Egypt and larger muscle cut shipments to the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, beef exports to the Middle East increased 8% from a year ago to 30,078 mt, valued at $131.3 million (up 46%).
- May beef export value averaged $505.02 per head of fed slaughter, up 17% from a year ago and breaking the previous record ($503.68) set in January 2022. Through May, per-head value averaged $483.49, up 34% from the first five months of 2021. Exports accounted for 17.2% of total May beef production and 14.6% for muscle cuts, each down slightly from last May’s high ratios. January-May exports accounted for 15.4% of total production and 13.1% for muscle cuts, each up about one-half percentage point from a year ago.
Pork exports still surging to Mexico, Dominican Republic
Pork exports to Mexico continued to shine in May, as the largest destination for U.S. pork builds further on last year’s record performance. May exports totaled 79,849 mt, up 12% from a year ago, while value climbed 13% to $171.2 million. Through May, exports to Mexico increased 22% to 396,934 mt, valued at $715.1 million (up 12%). To combat inflation, Mexico recently suspended import duties on pork muscle cuts for one year. While this move could attract more product from the European Union, the U.S. industry’s other main competitors – Canadian and Chilean pork – already had duty-free access under existing trade agreements.
Pork exports to the Dominican Republic set a new record in April (8,966 mt) and nearly matched that total in May, increasing 126% from a year ago to 8,518 mt. Export value was also just short of the April record, increasing 110% to $21.2 million. Through May, exports to the DR increased 40% to 36,110 mt, with value climbing 42% to $88.6 million. With shipments also trending higher to the Bahamas and the Leeward-Winward Islands, exports to the Caribbean increased 33% in volume (43,058 mt) and 38% in value ($113 million).
Following a record year in 2021, pork exports to Colombia started this year slowly but increased sharply in the second quarter. After a strong April, exports reached 9,710 mt in May (up 17% from a year ago), valued at $21.9 million (up 10%). Through May, exports to Colombia remained 1% below last year’s record pace in volume (40,693 mt) and 2% lower in value ($92.1 million). Although a large percentage of U.S. pork exported to Colombia is for further processing, the U.S. industry has made significant inroads in Colombia’s retail and foodservice sectors.
Other January-May results for U.S. pork exports include:
- Pork export value to South Korea has trended higher this year, driven in part by strong retail demand for convenience-based items and chilled pork cuts. January-May export volume to Korea fell 6% 75,988 mt, but export value still climbed 8% to $267.6 million. Korea’s imports of chilled U.S. pork were up 5% in volume (3,877 mt) and climbed 26% in value to $27.56 million. Competition in this market will further intensify in the second half of the year, as the Korean government recently announced a 70,000 mt, duty-free TRQ for imported pork. With imports from the U.S., European Union and Chile already entering at zero duty under free trade agreements, the main beneficiaries are expected to be Canadian, Mexican and Brazilian pork. Canada is the United States’ primary competitor in Korea’s chilled pork market.
- China is the dominant destination for U.S. pork variety meat, and exports showed an encouraging uptick in May. While still below last year, pork variety meat exports to China reached 24,159 mt in May, the largest since October, valued at $67.3 million (the highest since July). Through May, pork variety meat exports to China were down 21% from a year ago to 107,427 mt, with value falling 8% to $304.1 million. This is due in part to China’s COVID testing and tracing restrictions, which have hurt importers’ ability to profitably utilize imported pork variety meat. Through May, total pork and pork variety meat exports to the China/Hong Kong region were down significantly from a year ago in both volume (396,934 mt, down 56%) and value ($480.2 million, down 50%), as China’s overall imports trended toward 2019 levels.
- Following a strong April, pork exports to Japan took a step back in May, with volume down 12% from a year ago to 32,223 mt and value falling 14% to $132.3 million. Through May, exports to Japan were 9% below last year at 158,239 mt, valued at $667.3 million (down 8%). Despite logistical challenges, Japan’s January-May imports of U.S. chilled pork increased slightly from a year ago to 87,279 mt, while chilled imports from Canada fell 10% to 78,351 mt.
- While Central America’s demand for U.S. pork remains relatively strong, January-May exports trailed last year’s record pace by 13% in volume (50,295 mt) and 10% in value ($134.4 million). Exports trended higher to Honduras, the top market in the region, as well as to Nicaragua.
- Following a down year in 2021 and a slow start this year, pork exports to Australia showed signs of a rebound in May, totaling 4,686 mt valued at $17.1 million. While still lower year-over-year, this was the largest monthly volume and value in 11 months. Prior to recent increases in shipping costs and other transportation obstacles, Australia was a reliable destination for boneless U.S. hams and loins for further processing.
- May pork export value equated to $65.27 per head slaughtered, down 23% from a year ago but the highest monthly average since July 2021. The January-May average was $57.38 per head, down 14%. Exports accounted for 28.6% of total May pork production and 25.2% for muscle cuts. While lower than a year ago (down from 32% and 28.6%, respectively) these were the highest monthly ratios since July 2021. For January through May, exports accounted for 26.3% of total pork production and 23.4% for muscle cuts, down from 31.1% and 27.8%, respectively, in 2021.
Positive momentum continues for U.S. lamb exports
May exports of U.S. lamb increased 35% from a year ago to 1,856 mt, while export value climbed 40% to $2.55 million. Lamb muscle cut exports posted robust growth in Mexico and the Caribbean, led by the Netherlands Antilles and Dominican Republic.
January-May lamb exports increased 46% from a year ago to 8,368 mt, while value jumped 68% to $12.5 million. Muscle cut exports increased 80% in volume (875 mt) and 84% in value ($5.2 million).
Complete January-May export results for U.S. pork, beef and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics web page.
For questions, please contact Joe Schuele or call 303-547-0030.
- Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat, unless otherwise noted.
- One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds.
- U.S. pork and beef currently face retaliatory duties in China. In February 2020, China announced a duty exclusion process that allows importers to apply for relief from duties imposed in response to U.S. Section 301 duties. When an application is successful, the rate for U.S. beef can decline to the MFN rate of 12% and the rate for U.S. pork can decline to 37% (the MFN rate plus the 25% Section 232 retaliatory duty, which remains in place).