U.S. pork exports steady in September; beef continues to trend higher

November 7, 2017

7 Min Read
Pork exports to Mexico soften in September, but remain on record pace
National Pork Board

By U.S. Meat Export Federation 
September pork export volume was steady with both the August and year-ago levels, while beef exports edged higher in volume and jumped substantially in value, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Pork exports totaled 183,481 metric tons in September, nearly identical to both the September 2016 and August 2017 volumes. September export value was $503.8 million, up 3% year-over-year. Through the first three quarters of the year, pork exports were 8% ahead of last year’s record pace at 1.79 million mt, while export value climbed 10% to $4.71 billion.

September exports accounted for 23.6% of total pork production and 19.8% for muscle cuts only — both down slightly from a year ago. For January through September, these ratios improved about one percentage point from a year ago to 26.5% of total production and 22.1% for muscle cuts. September export value averaged $48.98 per head slaughtered, up 1% from a year ago. Through the first three quarters of the year, per-head export value was $52.79, up 7%.

Although lower than the previous month, September beef export volume improved 2% from a year ago to 103,552 mt. Export value topped $600 million for the fourth consecutive month at $616.9 million, up 16% from a year ago. January-September volume was 926,985 mt, up 9% from the first three quarters of 2016, while export value was $5.27 billion — up 16% year-over-year and 2% above of the record pace established in 2014.

Beef exports accounted for 12.5% of total production in September, down one percentage point from a year ago, but the percentage of muscle cuts exported increased from 10.2% last year to 10.4%. For January through September, beef exports accounted 12.8% of total production (down from 13.2%) and 10.1% for muscle cuts (steady with last year).

September beef export value averaged $289.14 per head of fed slaughter, up 13% from a year ago. January-September export value averaged $277.31 per head, up 10%.

U.S. pork exports steady in September
Pork exports to leading volume market Mexico edged modestly lower in September at 63,771 mt — down 4% from a year ago — while export value slipped 7% to $122.1 million. But through the first three quarters of the year, exports to Mexico remained well ahead of last year’s record volume pace at 585,998 mt (up 15%), while export value was up 18% to $1.1 billion.

September pork export results were bolstered by year-over-year increases to South Korea, Canada, Central and South America, the ASEAN region and Taiwan, while export volumes trended lower to leading value market Japan, China/Hong Kong and Australia. Market-specific highlights included:

• Pork exports to South Korea climbed 33% in volume (9,362 mt) and 27% in value ($25.9 million) in September, pushing results through the first three quarters of the year up 27% (to 120,633 mt) and 31% (to $330.9 million), respectively. Korea’s pork consumption is on pace to set another new record this year, and U.S. pork fits Korean consumer demand for a wide array of convenience foods and home meal replacement items.

• In Canada, September exports climbed 4% in volume (20,436 mt) and 9% in value ($77.6 million), pushing January-September volume up 3% to 155,713 mt, while value was steady with last year at $592.4 million.

• Colombia fueled another strong month for U.S. pork in South America, where September volume was up 55% to 8,629 mt and value jumped 43% to $21.6 million. Through September, exports were 90% ahead of last year’s pace in volume (72,551 mt) and 91% higher in value ($186.4 million). In leading market Colombia, domestic production has not kept pace with consumption growth and U.S. pork has become a preferred ingredient for Colombia’s production of processed pork items.

• Led by Honduras and Guatemala, September pork exports to Central America increased 16% in volume (5,176 mt) and 15% in value ($13.1 million). Through September, exports climbed 6% in volume (49,093 mt) and 8% in value ($118.8 million).

• A strong increase in exports to the Philippines pushed September results for the ASEAN region up 33% in volume (4,910 mt) and 64% in value ($17 million). January-September volume increased 24% to 35,194 mt while value jumped 38% to $95.4 million.

• Despite trending lower in September, pork exports to leading value market Japan remained steady with 2016 through the first three quarters of the year at 289,947 mt, while export value increased 3% to $1.19 billion. Chilled pork exports were down 3% from a year ago in volume (158,962 mt) but increased 2% in value to $750 million.

• Exports to China/Hong Kong continue to reflect China’s uptick in domestic pork production, as January-September exports declined 8% in volume (373,814 mt) and slipped 1% in value ($781.1 million). But pork variety meat exports to the region remained strong in September, pushing the January-September results up 11% year-over-year in volume (243,016 mt) and 22% in value ($534.8 million).

• While September exports to Australia declined from a year ago, January-September volume was still up 5% to 50,478 mt while value climbed 11% to $147.4 million. 

“The September export results really illustrate the importance of having a diverse range of pork export markets,” says USMEF CEO Philip Seng. “Even with our three largest markets down year-over-year, volume kept pace with last year and value posted an increase. This is why it is so critical for USMEF to continue identifying and developing new markets for U.S. pork, especially in this time of very large production.”

Beef exports higher to most regions, but hurricanes impact Caribbean demand
Strong momentum for U.S. beef continued in most Asian and Western Hemisphere markets in September, though exports faced some new headwinds. Exports to leading market Japan held up well in September despite Japan’s recent duty rate increase (from 38.5% to 50%) on imports of frozen U.S. beef. September exports of frozen beef to Japan were up 44% from a year ago to 10,512 mt, while chilled exports increased 38% to 12,663 mt.

For January through September, exports to Japan increased 22% in volume (236,536 mt) and 30% in value ($1.45 billion). This included a 42% increase in chilled beef exports (113,347 mt) valued at $833 million (up 45%). Frozen beef was up 15.5% to 85,432 mt, valued at $334 million (up 23%).

“USMEF is pleased to see solid demand continuing for U.S. beef in Japan, and this is a testament to the strong, well-established relationships with our loyal customers and the success of U.S. beef promotional campaigns in Japan,” Seng says. “But the 11.5% duty rate increase needs to be closely monitored to ascertain where market dislocation will occur. We are watching this situation carefully and remain very concerned about the widening gap in duty rates between U.S. beef and Australian beef.”

Through the first three quarters of 2017, market-specific highlights for U.S. beef include:

• Fueled by rapidly growing demand in South Korea’s retail sector, export volume to Korea increased 7% from a year ago to 131,774 mt. Export value ($856.9 million, up 20%) is on pace to easily break last year’s record of $1.06 billion. These totals include an 85% increase in chilled beef exports (31,648 mt), valued at $283 million (up 92%), as U.S. beef continues to gain market share in Korea.

• Taiwan is also an outstanding destination for chilled U.S. beef, with the United States holding more than 70% of the chilled beef market. Through September, chilled exports to Taiwan were up 19% in volume (13,615 mt) and 24% in value ($162 million). Total exports to Taiwan increased 9% in volume (32,894 mt) and 21% in value ($297.5 million).

• Within North America, September beef exports slowed slightly from a year ago in volume to both Mexico and Canada, but increased in value. Through September, exports to Mexico remained slightly ahead of last year’s pace in volume (175,585 mt, up 1%) and slightly lower in value ($726.9 million, down 1%). Exports to Canada were up 3% in volume (86,697 mt) and 6% in value ($603.8 million).

• Strong growth in the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam pushed beef exports to the ASEAN region 68% ahead of last year’s pace in volume (29,974 mt) and 53% higher in value ($149.1 million). The region is especially strong for beef variety meat, with exports through September more than doubling from a year ago in both volume (8,535 mt, up 125%) and value ($15.6 million, up 135%).

• With hurricanes inflicting severe damage on several Caribbean islands, September beef exports to the region slipped dramatically from a year ago in both volume (1,653 mt, down 22%) and value ($9.9 million, down 48%). Through September, exports to the Caribbean were still up 4% from a year ago in volume (17,759 mt), but value fell 6% to $118.2 million.

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