Meat Export Volumes Lower in August, but Value Remains Strong

For the second consecutive month, August export value for U.S. beef and pork increased year-over-year despite declines in volume. Export value for both products remains on a record pace, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

August beef exports overcame a 3 percent decline in volume to 102,456 metric tons (mt) to set a new monthly value record of $655.2 million – up 16 percent from a year ago. For January through August, beef exports were up 3 percent in volume (790,208 mt) and 13 percent in value ($4.55 billion) compared to the same period last year.

Pork export volume was down 6 percent year-over-year in August to 162,992 mt – due in part to market access issues in Russia and the China/Hong Kong region – but export value still achieved a 6 percent increase to $529.9 million. For the first eight months of the year, pork export volume was up 6 percent to 1.48 million mt while value increased 15 percent to $4.53 billion.

Despite supply crunch, beef export value races to new records

August fed beef slaughter was down 10 percent year-over-year, making the beef export value record even more noteworthy. Export value per head of fed slaughter reached $326.94, up 29 percent from a year ago and shattering the previous record ($299.14) set in June. For January through August, per-head export value was $279.48 – up 15 percent from the same period last year. Exports equated to 14 percent of total beef production and 11 percent for muscle cuts only – up from 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively, last year.

“International buyers are certainly concerned about supplies, and whether we will be able to meet the growing demand for U.S. beef,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “But price and supply concerns notwithstanding, their enthusiasm for U.S. beef has never been higher. We continue to see an outstanding response to our marketing campaigns and educational seminars informing buyers about the unique attributes of U.S. beef.”

January-August beef export highlights include:

  • Exports to Hong Kong were up 30 percent in volume (93,668 mt) and 50 percent in value ($667.8 million). After slowing in July, export value rebounded in August to $103.3 million (+32 percent).
  • Exports to Korea continue to perform extremely well, with volume up 14 percent to 76,144 mt, valued at $522.1 million (+44 percent).
  • A strong summer performance put exports to Taiwan on a record pace, with volume totaling 22,755 (+11 percent) and value up 16 percent to $190.6 million.
  • Exports to Mexico slowed slightly in August but remain strong for the year, totaling 155,573 mt valued at $742 million. These totals are up 19 percent and 33 percent, respectively – but as USMEF has previously noted, data from early 2013 may have understated last year’s exports.
  • Exports to leading market Japan were down 3 percent in volume (161,098 mt) but increased 2 percent in value to $1.01 billion. The U.S. continued to gain market share, with Japan importing less beef from other suppliers.

Price trends, Russian import ban impact August pork exports

Pork export value per head of slaughter was $64.08 in August (+22 percent) and $65.29 for January through August (+21 percent). Exports accounted for 28 percent of total pork production and 23 percent for muscle cuts only – up from 26 percent and 22 percent, respectively, during the first eight months of 2013.

August pork exports may have slowed due to the late-July peak in U.S. pork prices, with international buyers waiting for greater price stability before bolstering inventories. Exports also felt the impact of Russia’s import ban, which was imposed Aug.7 on pork muscle cuts from the United States, Canada and the European Union. U.S. pork exports to Russia were 5,738 mt in August – less than half the July volume.

“When a large buyer like Russia exits the market, the global impact can be widespread,” Seng explained. “For example, when Russia suspended imports of EU pork in January (due to African swine fever), there was a large increase in European pork entering Asian markets at very low prices. Similar trends could emerge as a result of this import ban, especially with Canadian pork that had previously been shipped to Russia in large quantities now seeking alternative markets.”

Canada’s pork exports fell 12 percent in August, with plummeting volumes for Russia partially offset by increases to China/Hong Kong, Korea and Mexico.

Mexico, which is the leading volume destination for U.S. pork, continued to perform very well in August – with exports reaching 56,528 mt (+13 percent) valued at $133.5 million (+30 percent). For the first eight months of the year, exports to Mexico maintained a record pace of 444,685 mt valued at $1.02 billion.

Other January-August pork export highlights include:

  • Exports to Korea were up 31 percent in volume (89,334 mt) and 49 percent in value ($278.3 million). In just eight months, pork export value to Korea has already surpassed the 2013 year-end total of $276. 1 million.
  • Colombia has rapidly emerged as the leading market for U.S. pork in the Central-South America region, with exports totaling 32,949 mt (+69 percent) valued at $91.7 million (+85 percent).
  • Although exports to Australia slowed in August, January-August totals were still up 7 percent in volume (39,004 mt) and 16 percent in value ($136.2 million).

August exports to the China/Hong Kong region slowed for the fifth consecutive month, pushing January-August totals down 15 percent in volume (237,753 mt) and 10 percent in value ($530.1 million) from a year ago. On Aug. 12, China delisted six U.S. pork plants and six cold storage facilities, significantly reducing U.S. supplies eligible for the market.

Pork muscle cut exports to Japan slumped in August, pushing the January-August volume slightly below last year’s pace (272,222 mt, -1 percent), while export value remained 3 percent higher at $1.26 billion. As noted above, this market has seen an influx of pork from European suppliers in recent months, with EU pork exports to Japan increasing about 50 percent from a year ago.

Lamb exports strengthen in August

After a difficult start in 2014, lamb exports have shown renewed momentum in recent months. August exports were up 4 percent in volume (807 mt) and 15 percent in value ($2.14 million). For January through August, exports were still 19 percent lower in volume (7,210 mt) and down 3 percent in value ($18.94 million). Exports have expanded to the Caribbean, Panama, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates this year, partially offsetting lower totals for Canada.

Complete January-August export totals for U.S. beef, pork and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics webpage.

For more information, please contact Joe Schuele at or 303-226-7309.

Editor’s notes:

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