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, while lamb exports continued to trend higher.
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. For January through April, beef exports increased 5% from a year ago to 478,260 mt, valued at $4.05 billion (up 38%).
“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. 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.
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%. 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.”
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