U.S. pork in an Asian meat display case National Pork Board

Mexico leads April pork export growth as demand from China softens

Pork exports moderate in April, but remain well above year-ago levels

Source:  U.S. Meat Export Federation
In April, U.S. red meat exports slowed moderately from the red-hot pace established in March but were still significantly higher year-over-year, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Pork exports followed a record-breaking March with a solid April performance, reaching 203,091 metric tons — up 8% from a year ago and the largest April volume on record. Export value was up 11% to $517.5 million. For January through April, pork exports increased 15% in volume (830,738 mt) and 19% in value ($2.1 billion).

Pork exports as a percentage of U.S. production continued to run well ahead of last year, as April exports accounted for 28.4% of total pork production and 23.5% for muscle cuts only — up from 26.2% and 22.1%, respectively. Through April, exports accounted 27.5% of total pork production and 22.8 for muscle cuts (up from 24.4% and 20.5% last year). Export value per head slaughtered also trended much higher than a year ago — averaging $55.39 for April (up 11%) and $53.12 through April (up 16%).

Beef exports reached 99,786 mt in April, up 13% from a year ago, valued at $550.4 million, up 14%. For January through April, beef exports were up 14% in volume (392,001 mt) and 18% in value ($2.16 billion) compared to the same period last year.

April exports accounted for 13.6% of total U.S. beef production and 10.6% for muscle cuts only — up from 13% and 9.9%, respectively, last year. Through April, exports accounted for 12.7% of total beef production (up slightly from last year) and 10% for muscle cuts (up from 9.5%). April export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $283.52 — up 12% from a year ago and the highest of 2017. Through April, per-head export value averaged $271.57, up 11%.

“While April was a very solid month for U.S. red meat exports, we remain in an extremely competitive situation across the world and must stay aggressive with our marketing efforts,” says Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “It is especially gratifying to see our per-head return growing in 2017, even as slaughter numbers are on the rise. But this is also not lost on our competitors, who will quickly fill the void if we do not defend our market share. This is why the continued investment of checkoff dollars and USDA funding in international market development is so critically important.”

Mexico leads April pork export growth
Mexico continued to solidify its position as the largest volume destination for U.S. pork as April exports were up 10% from a year ago in volume (58,828 mt) and exceeded $100 million in value for the 12th consecutive month ($104.7 million, up 12%). Through April, exports to Mexico were 24% higher than a year ago in volume (265,090 mt) and up 34% in value ($476.6 million).

April pork exports to leading value market Japan were steady with last year’s volume at 32,552 mt and 2% higher in value at $129.5 million. Through April, exports to Japan remained 5% higher than a year ago in volume (134,133 mt) and were up 10% in value ($540.8 million). Japanese import data indicate that Canada continues to aggressively pursue Japan’s high-value chilled market, with imports from Canada (53,220 mt) running 19% ahead of last year’s pace while chilled imports from the United States were up 2% to 71,228 mt.

As China’s domestic pork production rebounds, U.S. pork muscle cut exports to China/Hong Kong have trended below year-ago levels each month in 2017 (although exports in April were the largest this year). Exports of pork variety meat, however, have continued to outpace year-ago levels and helped offset much of the decline in muscle cut exports. For combined pork and pork variety meat exports, April volume was down 7% to 48,457 mt but value was steady with last year at $96.7 million. For January through April, exports to China/Hong Kong were still 2% higher than a year ago in volume (179,493 mt) and up 8% in value to $355.5 million. This was driven by a 21% increase in variety meat exports to 115,305 mt. These exports also commanded higher prices as value jumped 29% to $239 million.

With exports to China/Hong Kong expected to face steeper terrain in coming months as China’s domestic hog prices continue to fall, other destinations for U.S. pork used for further processing take on added importance. In addition to leading market Mexico, some markets that posted impressive April results included:
• Pork exports to South Korea continued their upward trajectory in April, climbing 21% above last year in volume (14,585 mt) and 32% higher in value ($41 million). Through April, exports to Korea were 28% ahead of last year’s pace in volume (65,743 mt) and 37% higher in value ($177.9 million).
• April pork exports to Australia were 11% higher than a year ago in volume (5,485 mt) and 17% higher in value ($16 million), pushing January-April results to 26,092 mt (up 31%) valued at $73.8 million (up 36%).
• Colombia led a very strong month for pork exports to Central and South America, with April exports to Colombia increasing 84% from a year ago in volume (5,085 mt) and more than doubling in value ($12.2 million, up 118%). Through April, export volume to Colombia was up 96% to 21,617 mt while value jumped 104% to $48.7 million. Bolstered also by a large increase in exports to Chile, export volume to Central and South America was up 45% through April at 53,741 mt while value climbed 47% to $127.8 million.
• April exports to the Philippines increased 91% from a year ago in volume (3,430 mt) and soared 217% in value to $9.2 million. This pushed January-April exports to the Philippines to 11,217 mt (up 14%) valued at $28.3 million (up 42%). Exports to the ASEAN region were 6% ahead of last year’s pace in volume (12,907 mt) through April while value was up 28% to $33.4 million.
• April exports to the Dominican Republic were up 53% in volume (3,567 mt) and 73% in value (just under $8 million). Through April, exports increased 29% in volume (11,365 mt) and 38% in value ($25.2 million).

Asian markets continue to fuel beef export growth
Leading market Japan continued to shine for U.S. beef in April, with exports up 15% in volume (23,540 mt) and 17% in value ($143.3 million). Through April, exports to Japan exceeded last year’s pace by more than one-third in both volume (97,951 mt, up 34%) and value ($570.6 million, up 35%). Growth to Japan has been driven by the surging volume of chilled U.S. beef, with the United States capturing 52% of Japan’s chilled imports, up from 39% market share during the first four months of 2016. U.S. chilled exports through April increased by 48% to 45,295 mt, valued at $320 million (up 43%), indicating widespread acceptance and a growing range of U.S. cuts available in both the retail and foodservice sectors.

Beef exports to South Korea cooled to some degree in April but remained above last year’s strong pace at 11,837 mt (up 8%) valued at $78.5 million (up 17%). For January through April, exports to Korea were up 19% in volume (54,388 mt) and 27% in value ($346 million). Similar to Japan, the driver of growth to Korea is in chilled U.S. beef, with exports through April totaling 12,003 mt (up 84%) valued at $106 million (up 86%). Korean quarantine clearance data show this strong growth continued through May, with the U.S. share of Korea’s chilled beef imports climbing to 53% — up from 38% in the same period last year.

The recent rebound continued for beef exports to Hong Kong, where a strong April performance pushed year-to-date exports ahead of last year’s pace. April exports were up 73% in volume (11,232 mt) and 67% in value ($66.6 million). Through April, exports to Hong Kong totaled 37,392 mt (up 2%) valued at $233.9 million (up 10%).

Driven by excellent results in the Philippines and Vietnam, April exports to the ASEAN region more than doubled from a year ago in volume (3,783 mt, up 105%) and nearly doubled in value ($18.1 million, up 95%). April exports to the Philippines (1,522 mt) were the largest in two years and the volume shipped to Vietnam (1,035 mt) was the largest since 2012. For January through April, exports to the ASEAN region increased 62% from a year ago in volume (10,975 mt) and 48% in value ($59.9 million).

Beef exports to Taiwan remained on a very solid pace, with April volume up 15% to 3,753 mt and value up 30% to $32.9 million. Through April, exports to Taiwan totaled 13,499 mt (up 24%) valued at $118.5 million (up 29%). This included chilled beef exports of 5,320 mt valued at 61.6 million.

Mexico was the only major market in which April beef exports dipped below last year’s pace, totaling 17,525 mt (down 15%) valued at $69.2 million (down 23%). Through April, exports to Mexico were still up 7% from a year ago in volume (74,582 mt) but were 4% lower in value ($296 million).

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