U.S. beef exports maintained a remarkable pace in April, topping $1 billion for the third time this year, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). April pork exports were well below the large totals posted a year ago.
Beef exports totaled 124,408 metric tons (mt) in April, up 3% from a year ago and the fifth largest on record, while export value soared 33% to $1.05 billion – second only to the record $1.07 billion posted in March. April exports to Taiwan and the Philippines were record-large and exports increased to Japan, China/Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. For January through April, beef exports increased 5% from a year ago to 478,260 mt, valued at $4.05 billion (up 38%). For South Korea, the leading value destination for U.S. beef, export value already topped $1 billion, increasing nearly 50% from a year ago.
"Global demand for U.S. beef continues to overcome enormous obstacles, from inflationary pressure to logistical challenges to the recent lockdowns in some of China’s major metropolitan areas,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. "Most encouraging is that even as beef exports climb to unprecedented levels in our largest Asian markets, demand is strengthening in other regions as well, fueled by a strong rebound in the foodservice sector."
Halstrom cautioned that April results did not capture the full impact of recent COVID-19 lockdowns in China, some of which continued through May and into early June. Still, USMEF said beef demand in China/Hong Kong continues to expand, though at a more moderate rate than in 2021. April exports increased 11% from a year ago to 23,137 mt, valued at $212.7 million (up 27%). Through April, exports to China/Hong Kong increased 28% in volume (85,374 mt) and 49% in value ($795.1 million).
Looking ahead, USMEF said the pressure inflation imposes on consumers’ discretionary income and the rising strength of the U.S. dollar versus some key trading partner currencies are also growing headwinds for U.S. red meat exports.
Pork exports regain momentum in Japan
April pork exports were 212,876 mt, down 21% from the large volume reported a year ago. Export value was $600.6 million, down 20%. Exports to leading market Mexico remained strong in April and are running well ahead of last year’s record pace. April exports also increased to Japan, Honduras and Colombia and exports to the Dominican Republic reached a new record. Through April, pork exports fell 20% from a year ago to 842,804 mt, valued at $2.31 billion (down 18%).
"The sharp decline in China’s demand for imported pork continues to weigh heavily on the year-over-year results for U.S. exports, and the COVID lockdowns dampened demand even further by limiting consumer spending and slowing activity in the wholesale market and the meat processing sector,” Halstrom explained. "We do expect exports to China to regain some momentum in the fourth quarter of this year – certainly not back to the peak volumes of 2020, but improving over current levels. Meanwhile shipments to Mexico remain on a record pace and exports to Japan and several Latin American markets trended higher in April."
January-April exports to China/Hong Kong dropped significantly from a year ago in both volume (139,732 mt, down 56%) and value ($373.9 million, down 48%). The region is still the dominant destination for U.S. pork variety meat, although demand for these items has also slowed in 2022. Through April, pork variety meat exports to China/Hong Kong were down 19% from a year ago to 83,454 mt, with value falling 3% to $237.2 million. USMEF said this is due in part to China’s COVID testing and tracing restrictions, which hurt importers’ ability to profitably utilize imported pork variety meat. U.S. pork also remains subject to retaliatory duties in China totaling 50%.
“Though importers may secure waivers of the 25% duty imposed in response to U.S. Section 301 tariffs, there is no waiver available for the retaliatory duty (also 25%) related to Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum,” USMEF explained.
A detailed summary of January-April export results, including market-specific highlights, is available from the USMEF website.