Pork exports break volume record in 2016

Pork export volume reached a record 2.31 million metric tons in 2016, up 8% year-over-year and 2% above the previous high in 2012.

February 8, 2017

6 Min Read
Pork exports break volume record in 2016
National Pork Board

Source U.S. Meat Export Federation

U.S. pork and beef exports wrapped up an excellent 2016 performance with strong December results, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Pork export volume reached a record 2.31 million metric tons in 2016, up 8% year-over-year and 2% above the previous high in 2012. Export value increased 7% from a year ago to $5.94 billion. December pork exports totaled 222,635 mt, up 18% year-over-year, valued at $564.2 million, up 20%.

Exports accounted for 25.8% of total 2016 pork production and 21.5% for muscle cuts — up from 24.2% and 20.8%, respectively, in 2015. December ratios were 28% for total production and 23% for muscle cuts only — up significantly from December 2015. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $50.20 in 2016, up 4% from the previous year. The December average was $56.06, up 24%.


Pork to Mexico sets fifth straight volume record; China/Hong Kong also record-large

A remarkable second half pushed 2016 pork export volume to Mexico to its fifth consecutive record at 730,316 mt — breaking the previous record by 2%. Export value to Mexico totaled $1.36 billion, up 7% year-over-year and the second-highest on record, trailing only the $1.56 billion mark reached in 2014.

“At this time of record-large pork production, it would be hard to overstate the importance of Mexican demand to the U.S. industry,” says Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “This is especially true for hams, as we are locked out of Russia — once a large destination for U.S. hams — and China’s demand for imported hams has moderated in recent months. So now more than ever, we need strong demand from our key customers in Mexico, and they have responded with extraordinary results. December exports to Mexico accounted for nearly $16 per head, and that’s absolutely critical to the entire U.S. pork supply chain.”

Though down from the high levels seen earlier in the year, December pork exports to China/Hong Kong were still up 40% year-over-year in volume (47,242 mt) and 42% higher in value ($96 million). For the full year, exports to China/Hong set a new volume record of 544,943 mt (up 61%) and broke the $1 billion mark for the first time ($1.07 billion, up 53%).

Other 2016 highlights for U.S. pork exports include:

• Japan remained the leading value destination for U.S. pork, though exports fell 5% in volume (387,712 mt) and 2% in value ($1.56 billion) compared to 2015. However, chilled exports to Japan set a new record of 218,211 mt, up 8%.

• Led by a record performance in Central America and a fourth-quarter surge in Colombia and Chile, exports to the Central/South America region increased 11% in volume (135,954 mt) and 9% in value ($334.5 million).

• Pork shipments increased to both Australia and New Zealand, as export volume to Oceania reached 69,963 mt (up 10%) valued at $197.3 million (up 3%).

• Exports to the Dominican Republic set another record in 2016, topping the previous year’s totals by 10% in volume (25,591 mt) and 6% in value ($56.4 million).

• Fueled by increases in China/Hong Kong and Canada and steady exports to Mexico, pork variety meat exports jumped 20% in volume to 523,199 mt and 24% in value to $999 million — just short of the record levels reached in 2014.

Beef exports also increase

Beef exports increased 11% in volume (1.19 million mt) and 1% in value ($6.34 billion) from 2015. December exports totaled 116,847 mt, up 24% year-over-year. This was the largest monthly volume since July 2013 and the largest ever for December. Export value was $619.1 million in December, up 22%.

Exports accounted for 13.7% of total beef production in 2016 and 10.5% for muscle cuts — up from 13.1% and 10%, respectively, in 2015. December exports accounted for 15.6% of total December beef production and 12.1% for muscle cuts only — each up more than 2 percentage points from a year ago and the highest since 2011. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $262.17, down 6% from 2015, but the December average was $301.97 — up 14% and the highest in nearly two years.

Asian markets drive strong beef export growth

Driven by strong demand for higher-value chilled cuts, beef exports achieved new value records in South Korea and Taiwan in 2016, and rebounded strongly in Japan.

In Korea, December beef exports soared by 81% in volume (20,333 mt) and 88% in value ($130 million) from a year ago, capping a remarkable year in which exports totaled 179,280 mt (up 42%) valued at $1.06 billion — up 31% from a year ago and breaking the previous value record by more than 20%. Korea’s per capita beef consumption set a new record in 2016 of 34 pounds (carcass weight) — so the United States not only gained market share, but also capitalized on the market’s overall growth.

Beef exports to Taiwan were also strong in December, with export value ($43.3 million) hitting its highest level ever. Full-year exports to Taiwan were up 25% in volume to 44,053 mt and 14% in value to $362.8 million.

Last year’s exports to Japan were the largest of the post-bovine spongiform encephalopathy era at 258,653 mt, up 26% year-over-year. Export value totaled $1.51 billion, up 18%. Chilled beef exports to Japan totaled 112,334 mt, up 44% from 2015.

“In addition to the strength of the U.S. dollar, U.S. beef overcame other severe challenges in these north Asian markets and achieved remarkable results,” Seng says. “Despite facing higher tariff rates in Japan compared to Australian beef, U.S. beef displaced its competition and won back significant market share. And the investment the U.S. industry made to rebuild consumer confidence in Korea is paying tremendous dividends, especially in the retail sector. We’re seeing U.S. beef featured regularly by retailers who were once reluctant to carry the product.”

Other 2016 highlights for U.S. beef include:

• Beef exports to Mexico increased 7% year-over-year in volume to 242,373 mt, though value fell 11% to $974.9 million. While challenged by a weak peso, Mexico remains a key destination for muscle cuts such as shoulder clods and rounds, as well as for beef variety meat.

• Led by strong growth in Chile and a doubling of exports to Colombia, beef exports to South America increased 6% in volume to 22,810 mt, valued at $92.7 million (down 2%). The region should see further growth in 2017 with the reopening of Brazil.

• Exports to Central America were up 7% in volume (12,745 mt) with top market Guatemala up 1% and exports to Honduras nearly doubling. Export value was $71.8 million, up 1%.

• Fueled by a resurgence in Indonesia and solid growth in Vietnam, beef exports to the ASEAN region were up 41% in volume (29,920 mt) and 15% in value ($156.9 million). Indonesia expanded access for U.S. beef in early August. Despite being closed to many products through the first seven months of the year, U.S. exports to Indonesia set a new value record of $39.4 million.

• Beef variety meat exports increased 10% in volume (341,433 mt) and 4% in value ($902.2 million) in 2016. Liver exports increased 12% to 81,727 and reached a broader range of markets. While liver exports to Egypt — the largest destination for U.S. livers — increased 4%, further growth was achieved in Central and South America and with the reopening of South Africa to U.S. beef.

Complete 2016 export results are available on USMEF’s statistics web page.     


• Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat, unless otherwise noted.

• One metric ton equals 2,204.622 pounds.

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