Global demand for U.S. pork and beef has remained very robust in 2020, despite COVID-19 related disruptions in many countries' restaurant and hospitality sectors. According to Dan Halstrom, U.S. Meat Export Federation president and CEO, retail meat demand has surged in many markets, along with sales through e-commerce platforms and delivery services.
"Despite recent disruptions to the supply chain, pork was up 40% for the quarter versus a year ago. Beef was up 9%, this included very good growth in pork and beef variety meat. We saw a shift obviously away from food service and more into the retail segment, and of course we saw more of a shift onto the online home delivery formats," Halstrom says. "But it's interesting while we're still in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown in most of the U.S. we are seeing a shift out of it in Asia. Markets like Taiwan, Hong Kong and China have actually been out of the lockdowns now for almost two months. Korean and Vietnam had been out of it for a few weeks and our largest market in Japan had some relaxations this week on 39 of the 47 prefectures and the rest of them will be open by the end of May."
Halstrom says first quarter beef and pork exports were not significantly impacted by the supply chain disruptions but expects they will be impacted in the second quarter, especially the last part of April and into the first half of May.
"Our outlook for 2020 continues to remain very positive in part because of improvements in market access. The U.S.-Japan agricultural agreement, we are definitely seeing positive impacts, if it wasn't the largest deal ever made for U.S. beef and pork, it's one of the largest and we're now on a level playing field with our competition," Halstrom says. "The China-U.S. phase one agreement, same situation. We're seeing benefit already — dramatic growth on the pork side, fueled by shortages surrounding African swine fever in the domestic herd in China. Now on the beef side, I don't think we've fully seen the reflection of the positives here. We will see that starting in the second quarter and into the third quarter."