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Pork Export Values, Volume Reach New Heights

Pork Export Values, Volume Reach New Heights

New value records were set in 2012 for U.S. beef and pork exports, topping highs set in 2011, according to end-of-year statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

The achievement was more significant in light of challenging export conditions that included non-science-based trade barriers in several key markets and an anemic economy in certain regions, USMEF reports.

“The export markets are a critical profit center for the industry at a time when the industry is challenged by high input costs and, on the beef side, a historically low herd size,” says Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “2012 saw record highs for per-head export values for both pork and beef at a time when those returns were sorely needed by producers.”

Pork exports set both volume and value records last year, reaching 2.26 million metric tons – up a fraction from the record set in 2011 – valued at $6.3 billion, a 3.5% increase over the prior year’s record. One metric ton = 2,204.622 lb.

The per-head export value of U.S. pork exports set another record in 2012, reaching $55.87, up 1% from 2011. For the year, exports accounted for 27% of total pork production and 23.4% of pork muscle cut production vs. 27.5% and 23%, respectively, in 2011.

The value of beef exports for the year rose 2% to a record-high $5.51 billion on 12% lower volumes (1.13 million metric tons).

The per-head export value for beef hit $216.73, a $10.36 increase over 2011. Contributing to that was a new monthly record value of $242.65 set in December.

For the year, U.S. beef exports accounted for 12.7% of total beef production and 9.8% of muscle cut production. This compares to 14.2% and 11%, respectively, in 2011.

Records Set in 2012
In addition to the new standards noted above, one-year export records were set in several key export markets:



  • Mexico: 600,949 metric tons (12% increase) valued at $1.126 billion (8% increase)
  • Canada: 235,604 metric tons (14% increase) valued at $855.7 million (16% increase)
  • Central/South America: 90,897 metric tons (26% increase) valued at $227.9 million (22% increase)
  • Australia/New Zealand: 76,801 metric tons (9% increase) valued at $236.1 million (5% increase)



  • Russia: 80,408 metric tons (10% increase) valued at $307.5 million (20% increase)
  • Hong Kong: 65,033 metric tons (28% increase) valued at $339.5 million (43% increase)
  • Central/South America: 33,891 metric tons (31% increase) valued at $134.1 million (57% increase)
  • Canada: $1.177 billion (14% value increase even though volume dipped 6% to 180,015 metric tons).

Top 5 Value Export Markets for 2012



  • Japan – $1.986 billion
  • Mexico – $1.126 billion
  • China/Hong Kong – $886.2 million
  • Canada – $855.7 million
  • South Korea – $421.1 million




  • Canada – $1.177 billion
  • Japan – $1.03 billion (surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time since 2003)
  • Mexico – $822.4 million
  • South Korea – $582 million
  • Hong Kong – $339.5 million

2013 Outlook

Looking ahead, the outlook for 2013 appears positive for both the U.S. beef and pork industries, according to Seng.

“There are many factors that go into projecting 12 months into the future, but as we continue to focus our efforts on markets that offer the greatest potential for growth, we are optimistic that 2013 will give us the opportunity to maintain the momentum we have seen in pork exports while rebounding in beef,” he says. The recent opening of Japan to U.S. beef under 30 months of age contributes to a projected growth in beef exports of 4% in volume (to 1.17 million metric tons) valued at more than $6 billion. That total may be tempered if issues with exports to Russia are not resolved.

The projection for pork calls for steady to slight growth, with exports likely to still exceed 2.2 million metric tons, valued at more than $6 billion, with key risk factors including Russia and domestic production in China. On the bullish side, U.S. pork is an extremely versatile, high-quality protein at a great value that will gain market share in key export markets. Continued growth to top volume market Mexico is also expected to boost the bottom line.

Other Facts of Note

December pork exports were 186,135 metric tons, down 14% in volume and 11% in value at $515.9 million vs. the high year-ago levels. December export volume was still larger year-over-year to Canada, Central/South America and Australia.

December beef exports were down 16% vs. the prior year at 90,789 metric tons, while value was down just 3% at $461.2 million. Export gains were seen for the month in Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines and Central/South America.

Complete export results for pork and beef are available online.



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