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Broad-Based Growth for April Pork Exports; Beef Exports Trend Lower

Published: Jun 08, 2023

Broad-Based Growth for April Pork Exports; Beef Exports Trend Lower


April exports of U.S. pork achieved gains in a wide range of markets, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), while beef exports were below the very large totals posted a year ago. 

Propelled by another month of widespread growth, April pork exports totaled 243,789 metric tons (mt), up 15% from a year ago, while value increased 10% to $660.1 million. For January through April, pork exports climbed 14% to 960,480 mt, valued at $2.62 billion (up 13%). 

“International demand continues to be a positive for the entire pork supply chain,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “While Mexico remains a star performer for U.S. pork, it’s really encouraging to see growth in many markets. Latin American demand has remained strong while the momentum for U.S. pork into the Asia Pacific region has also been increasing. This is critical for maximizing carcass value and generating revenue for an industry that is facing difficult economic conditions.” 

April beef exports were 10% below last year at 111,416 mt, while value fell 18% to $859.5 million. Through the first four months of 2023, beef exports were down 8% in volume (437,910 mt) and were 21% lower in value ($3.21 billion) compared to last year’s record pace. 

“With U.S. beef supplies tightening, it’s difficult to keep pace with the remarkable export totals posted in the first half of 2022, but exports continue to account for a similar share of production as last year’s record,” Halstrom said. “The rebound in travel and tourism – which is now gaining momentum in Asia – and related foodservice opportunities continue to support beef demand. In some countries we have also seen a recent easing of the inflationary pressure on consumers’ discretionary income.” 

Halstrom added that for both beef and pork exports, it is imperative that West Coast port terminal operators reach a contract agreement with longshoremen. 

“While there has been no formal strike or lockout, sporadic work stoppages on the West Coast are a major concern for exporters and their international customers,” Halstrom said. “This is especially true for companies shipping chilled beef or pork to Asia. For that business, reliability and timeliness are paramount.”

Pork exports climb to Mexico, Korea, ASEAN and Australia

Pork exports to Mexico have soared to another record pace in 2023 and April was again a strong month, with volume increasing 9% year-over-year to 80,214 mt, valued at $149.6 million (up 7%). For January through April, shipments to Mexico topped last year by 10% in volume (350,270 mt) and 27% in value ($691.3 million). While much of the volume is destined for further processing, the U.S. industry continues to make impressive strides in Mexico’s retail and foodservice sectors. 

April pork exports to South Korea totaled 21,336 mt, up 42% from a year ago and the largest since May 2019, while export value climbed 27% to $66.6 million. Through April, exports to Korea were up 13% to 66,395 mt, valued at $210 million (up 1%). Korea recently opened another duty-free quota for imported pork cuts, which primarily benefits Canadian, Mexican and Brazilian pork (the U.S., EU and Chile already have duty-free access). Eligibility was also recently restored for pork imports from one German slaughter plant located in a region free of African swine fever (ASF). 

Pork exports to Australia have made an impressive rebound in 2023, with April exports more than doubling from a year ago to 6,040 mt (up 143% and the highest in two years), valued at $20.6 million (up 123%). Although Australia restricts U.S. pork to processed products and raw material destined for further processing, January-April exports climbed 54% to 16,146 mt, valued at $56.6 million (up 50%).

Other January-April results for U.S. pork exports include: 

  • April exports of pork variety meat soared 39% from a year ago to 47,692 mt, valued at $113 million (up 27% and ninth largest on record). Through April, pork variety meat exports increased 37% to 195,030 mt, valued at $458.6 million (up 24%). While China/Hong Kong is the primary destination, exports also increased to Mexico, the Philippines, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Vietnam, Taiwan, Chile and El Salvador. 

  • Strong retail and foodservice demand, combined with an ASF-driven downturn in domestic production, have contributed to a surge in U.S. pork exports to the Dominican Republic. Through April, shipments to the DR were up 55% from last year’s record pace to 42,659 mt, valued at $112.6 million (up 67%). With demand also increasing in Trinidad and Tobago, the Leeward-Windward Islands, Netherlands Antilles, Cayman Islands and Barbados, January-April exports to the Caribbean region increased 49% to 49,069 mt, valued at $135.2 million (up 57%). 

  • Domestic production challenges, rising prices for European pork and the extension of reduced tariffs in the Philippines have bolstered demand for U.S. pork in the ASEAN region. Through April, exports increased 65% to 20,646 mt, valued at $50.5 million (up 55%). While the Philippines is the region’s primary destination for U.S. pork, exports have surged to Malaysia, reaching a record 860 mt in April. Volumes have also increased to Vietnam. 

  • Demand for U.S. pork has also rebounded in Taiwan, where April exports increased tenfold from last year’s low total to reach 1,732 mt (the highest since 2020), valued at $4.5 million. Through April, exports to Taiwan were up 365% from a year ago to 3,224 mt, valued at just over $10 million (up 425%). 

  • April pork exports to Japan were down 3% from a year ago to 33,527 mt, while value slipped 8% to $131.5 million. Through April, exports declined 2% to 123,856 mt, valued at $494.3 million (down 8%). Japan is the primary overseas destination for U.S. chilled pork, with these shipments relying heavily on smooth operations at U.S. West Coast ports. 

  • Pork exports to China/Hong Kong continue to trend well above the totals posted in the first half of 2022. April exports to the region were 47,152 mt, up 33% from a year ago, with value up 29% to $122.6 million. As noted above, variety meat accounts for most of the volume. Through April, exports to China/Hong Kong increased 30% in volume (182,033 mt) and 27% in value ($474.7 million). 

  • April pork export value equated to $67.56 per head slaughtered, up 13% from a year ago and the highest since May 2021. The January-April per-head average increased 12% to $61.96. Exports accounted for 32% of total April pork production and 27.7% for muscle cuts only, each up more than three percentage points from April 2022. For January through April, these ratios were 29.1% of total production and 24.9% for muscle cuts, up significantly from a year ago (25.8% and 23%, respectively).

April beef exports increase to Mexico, Korea, Europe and Africa

April was another outstanding month for beef exports to Mexico, buoyed by a strong peso and robust foodservice demand. April shipments totaled 14,403 mt, up 10% from a year ago, while value climbed 18% to $81.8 million. For January through April, exports to Mexico increased 14% to 64,912 mt, valued at $365.4 million (up 17%). These totals included 32,912 mt of beef variety meat, up 13% from a year ago, valued at $93.9 million (up 19%). Mexico is the leading volume destination for U.S. beef variety meat exports.

April exports to South Korea reached 24,825 mt, exceeding last April’s large volume by 7%. Export value was $201.8 million, down 13% from a year ago but the highest since August. Through April, exports to Korea were down 10% from last year’s record pace at 88,708 mt, valued at $707.1 million (down 31%). The Korean won slumped versus the U.S. dollar in April but has since posted a modest rebound. Inflation has also recently eased in Korea, brightening the outlook for beef demand. 

April exports to the European Union (plus the United Kingdom), which restricts imports to beef from non-hormone-treated cattle, totaled 2,345 mt – up 25% from a year ago and the largest since September 2019.  Export value increased 32% to $31.4 million. Through April, exports to the EU+UK climbed 14% to 7,176 mt, valued at $89.8 million. British demand accounted for some of this growth, despite the fact that U.S. beef has no duty-free access to the UK. Australia and New Zealand now have duty-free quotas for beef exports to the UK under their recently implemented free trade agreements, which will put U.S. beef at a severe disadvantage. For this calendar year, the U.S.-specific share of the EU’s duty-free High-Quality Beef Quota is 27,800 mt. 

Other January-April results for U.S. beef exports include: 

  • South Africa continues to be a bright spot for U.S. beef exports in 2023, fueled by a strong rebound in demand for beef variety meat. April exports nearly doubled from a year ago, increasing 96% to 1,374 mt, valued at $1.5 million (up 70%). Through April, exports climbed 162% to 7,199 mt, with value up 165% to $7.8 million. Exports to South Africa are on a record pace, already approaching the full-year totals achieved in 2022. With shipments also trending higher to Cote D’Ivoire and Morocco, January-April exports to Africa increased 74% to 8,504 mt, valued at $9.8 million (up 57%). 

  • April beef exports to Peru, also a major destination for variety meat, more than doubled year-over-year to 677 mt, valued at $2.9 million. For January through April, exports to Peru climbed 143% to 2,189 mt. Beef variety meat shipments accelerated at an even higher rate, with exports soaring 356% to 1,568 mt, valued at just over $3 million (up 125%). 

  • Although below last year’s large totals, April was a solid month for beef exports to China/Hong Kong. April shipments reached 21,235 mt, down 8%, valued at $186 million (down 13%). Through April, exports to the region trailed the record pace of 2022 by 11% in volume (76,357 mt) and 17% in value ($663.1 million). Reflecting a rebound in travel and tourism in Asia, exports to Hong Kong are trending higher in 2023, climbing 26% to 11,971 mt, valued at $122.1 million (up 8%). 

  • While April exports to the Caribbean were below last year, January-April shipments remained 7% higher in volume (9,599 mt) and 8% higher in value ($86.8 million). These results were fueled by excellent growth in the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.  

  • Beef exports to Japan slumped in April to 19,788 mt, down 26% from a year ago and the lowest since February 2016. Export value fell 34% to $146.6 million. For January through April, exports to Japan were 10% below last year’s pace at 89,068 mt, valued at $620.5 million (down 24%). 

  • April beef export value equated to $441.70 per head of fed slaughter, down 10% from a year ago but the highest since July. The January-April per-head average was $389.53, down 19% from a year ago. April exports accounted for 15.7% of total beef production and 13.5% for muscle cuts only, essentially mirroring last April’s ratios. Through April, exports accounted for 14.4% of total production and 12.2% for muscle cuts, each down about one-half percentage point from a year ago.

April lamb exports trend lower

Exports of U.S. lamb muscle cuts totaled 153 mt in April, down 13% from year ago, while export value fell 20% to just over $1 million. Exports to Mexico more than doubled to 54 mt, but these gains were offset by lower shipments to the Caribbean. 

Through April, lamb exports were still 22% ahead of last year’s pace at 817 mt, with value up 10% to $4.7 million. Exports trended higher to Mexico, the Netherlands Antilles, the Bahamas, Guatemala and Canada.

Complete January-April 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.

  • As noted the past several months, USMEF has raised concerns in recent years with USDA about export data collected by the Department of Commerce for lamb variety meat to Mexico. Reported volumes have declined dramatically since July, suggesting that the data reported in prior months and years were disproportionately high. USMEF is therefore focusing year-over-year comparisons on lamb muscle cuts only.

  • 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).