U.S. pork exports remained ahead of last year’s record volume pace, and beef exports are poised to break $7 billion this year for only the second time, according to October export results released by USDA and compiled by U.S. Meat Export Federation.
October pork exports were the largest since May, totaling 211,592 metric tons (mt), up 5 percent from a year ago, valued at $565.4 million, up 8 percent. Through the first 10 months of the year, pork exports increased 8 percent in volume (2.005 million mt) and 10 percent in value ($5.28 billion) from the same period last year.
Exports accounted for 25.4 percent of total pork production in October (steady with last year) and 21.6 percent for muscle cuts only (up slightly from a year ago). For January through October, these ratios increased about one percentage point from a year ago to 26.4 percent of total production and 22 percent for muscle cuts. October export value averaged $51.41 per head slaughtered, up 9 percent from a year ago and the highest since July. Through the first 10 months of the year, per-head export value was $52.64, up 7 percent.
Beef exports reached 111,287 mt in October, up 5 percent from a year ago, valued at $662 million, up 18 percent. These were the second-largest monthly totals of 2017, trailing only August. For January through October, exports totaled 1.038 million mt, up 9 percent year-over-year, valued at $5.93 billion – up 16 percent from a year ago and slightly ahead of the record value pace established in 2014.
Beef exports accounted for 13 percent of total production in October, the highest since July but down from 13.9 percent last year. The percentage of muscle cuts exported was steady with last year at 10.7 percent. For January through October, beef exports accounted for 12.8 percent of total production (down from 13.3 percent last year) and 10.2 percent for muscle cuts (steady with last year).
October beef export value averaged $301.88 per head of fed slaughter, up 12 percent from a year ago and the highest since December 2016. January-October export value averaged $279.85 per head, up 10 percent.
Pork exports rebound to Mexico, Japan; record month for South America
Following a modest slowdown in September, pork exports to leading volume market Mexico regained momentum at 69,529 mt, up 7 percent from a year ago, valued at $129.8 million (up 13 percent). Through October, exports to Mexico are well-positioned for a sixth consecutive annual volume record at 655,527 mt (up 14 percent) valued at $1.24 billion (up 17 percent).
Mexico is an especially important destination for U.S. hams, and consumption growth in Mexico has been critically supportive of ham prices in this time of record U.S. pork production, explained USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom.
“Although ham prices are currently below last year’s level, they have been up an average of 2 percent in 2017 and predictions of ham prices plummeting have not come true,” he said. “Strong demand in Mexico is absolutely a key reason for this. USMEF has focused on expanding per-capita pork consumption in Mexico, which is up by about one-third in the past 10 years. This has helped make Mexico an even more critical and more reliable trading partner for the U.S. pork industry.”
Exports to leading value market Japan also trended upward in October, increasing 5 percent from a year ago in both volume (32,475 mt) and value ($134.5 million). January-October exports to Japan were 322,422 mt (up 1 percent) valued at $1.33 billion (up 3 percent). This included 176,609 mt of chilled pork valued at $834 million, down 2 percent in volume but 2 percent higher in value than a year ago.
Led by Colombia and Chile, October pork exports to South America reached a record 12,624 mt (up 31 percent from a year ago) valued at $32.3 million (up 29 percent). Through October, exports to South America were 78 percent ahead of last year’s pace in both volume (85,175 mt) and value ($218.8 million), already surpassing the previous records set in 2014. Export volumes to Colombia and Chile have also exceeded previous highs reached in 2014 and 2013, respectively.
Japan, Korea, Hong Kong drive outstanding beef export value growth
Japan continued to be the pacesetter for U.S. beef exports in October, with volume climbing 19 percent from a year ago to 23,981 mt and value up 23 percent to $147.1 million. This pushed January-October volume to 260,517 mt (up 22 percent) valued at $1.59 billion – up 29 percent and already setting a new single-year record. Chilled beef continues to drive export growth to Japan, with chilled exports up 40 percent in volume (124,699 mt) and 43 percent in value ($918.8 million)
“The U.S. beef industry has really broadened its reach in Japan, expanding the range of cuts offered and the retail and foodservice venues in which they are featured,” Halstrom said. “But USMEF remains concerned about market access barriers in Japan, as we face significantly higher tariffs than our main competitor, Australia, and import safeguards that could hinder further growth.”
Exports to South Korea continued to climb in October, up 2 percent in volume (17,224 mt) and 24 percent in value ($122.4 million) from a year ago. Through October, exports totaled 148,998 mt (up 7 percent) valued at $979.3 million – 20 percent above last year’s record pace. Demand for U.S. chilled beef is especially strong in Korea’s retail sector, with chilled beef exports up 88 percent to 36,773 mt valued at $329 million, up 93 percent.
Lamb exports lower in October
October exports of U.S. lamb were 560 mt, down 7 percent from a year ago, and value slipped 6 percent to $1.32 million. For the first 10 months of the year, exports declined 14 percent in volume (6,139 mt) but increased 8 percent in value to just under $16 million. The volume decline is due to slow demand for lamb variety meat, as muscle cut exports through October were up 15 percent in volume (1,913 mt) and 20 percent in value ($11.38 million). Muscle cut exports have increased year-over-year to leading markets Mexico, the Caribbean and Canada, while also showing promising growth in Central America and Taiwan.
Complete January-October export results for U.S. beef, pork and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics web page.