October exports of U.S. pork were the largest in more than a year, and beef export volume also increased from a year ago, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). U.S. beef exports are on a record pace in 2022 and have already exceeded $10 billion, the data revealed.
U.S. pork exports reached 238,198 metric tons (mt) in October, up 5% from a year ago and the largest since June 2021, USMEF reported. Pork export value also increased, up 13% to $697.3 million, the highest since May 2021. October export highlights included a new value record for Mexico ($203.1 million) and strong growth to South Korea, the ASEAN and the Dominican Republic.
October pork exports to China/Hong Kong also improved, climbing 37% from a year ago to 57,345 mt, valued at $141.3 million (up 39%). While driven in large part by strengthening demand for variety meat (see above), USMEF said pork muscle cut exports to the region also increased 16% to 19,846 mt, valued at $54.1 million (up 37%). Though coming too late to impact October exports, USMEF said China’s easing of some COVID restrictions is expected to eventually provide a boost for consumer demand, especially in the country’s beleaguered foodservice sector.
USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom noted that the October pork results were bolstered by outstanding growth in variety meat exports, which set a new value record at $126.2 million. Export volume was the second largest on record at more than 55,000 mt.
“The recent rebound in pork variety meat exports is tremendous news for the U.S. industry on a few different fronts,” Halstrom said. “While exports to China have regained momentum, our ongoing efforts to diversify destinations for pork variety meats are definitely paying dividends. Larger shipments also reflect an improved labor situation at the plant level, which has helped increase the capture rate for variety meat items.”
Even with the gains in October, however, U.S. pork exports since January are 12% below last year at 2.18 million mt, valued at $6.26 billion (down 8%).
Beef exports weather exchange rate storm
October beef exports totaled 125,466 mt, up 8% from a year ago. Export value was $929.8 million, down 3% from the large total reported in October 2021.
According to USMEF, demand for U.S. beef in China/Hong Kong remained resilient in October, increasing significantly from a year ago despite China’s COVID-related travel restrictions and periodic lockdowns in several major metropolitan areas. China/Hong Kong was the leading destination for U.S. beef in October at 26,170 mt, up 21% from a year ago, while value climbed 19% to $240.8 million.
China/Hong Kong is now the second highest value destination for U.S. beef, trailing only South Korea, USMEF added.
Export volume to Japan was steady with last year and shipments increased to South Korea, but export value to both markets was negatively impacted by slumping currencies. Meanwhile, October beef exports achieved strong growth to the ASEAN, Middle East and Canada.
In the first 10 months of 2022, beef export value increased 18% from last year’s record pace to reach $10.05 billion – topping $10 billion in a single year for only the second time. January-October export volume was 1.25 million mt, up 4% from a year ago.
“The October results were remarkable considering the headwinds facing U.S. beef, especially in our large Asian markets,” Halstrom said. “Key currencies such as the Japanese yen and Korean won had sunk to their lowest levels in decades versus the U.S. dollar, which obviously affected importers’ buying power. COVID lockdowns in China were also a concerning factor, especially for buyers in the foodservice sector. But despite all that, U.S. beef still performed very well in Asia and achieved solid growth in North America and the Middle East. With some recent improvement in exchange rates, beef exports are well-positioned to surpass last year’s records.”
Full results for October are available on the USMEF website.