US - March pork exports were the largest in 11 months at 195,898 mt, up 3 percent year-over-year. First-quarter exports reached 534,321 mt, up 2 percent. March export value ($480.4 million) was down 3 percent from a year ago but the highest since May 2015. First-quarter export value totaled $1.3 billion, 9 percent below last year’s pace.
“Exports showed an encouraging level of improvement in March, especially to our key Asian markets,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng.
“The US pork industry is now better positioned to capitalize on strong demand in China. Pork exports to Japan were also higher, though we are still in a very tough battle for market share as Japan’s imports from Europe increased at a faster pace. On the beef side, exports continued to perform well in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. So while US exports continue to recover from a down year in 2015, volumes are on track for improvement in most markets this year.”
March pork exports to the China/Hong Kong region were 50,695 mt, up 80 per cent from a year ago and the largest volume since December 2011. For the first quarter, exports to China/Hong Kong increased 83 per cent in volume (124,231 mt) and 54 per cent in value ($233.7 million). But China’s imports from all suppliers – especially the European Union – have been record-large in recent months, raising concerns that the market could soften despite the downward trend in domestic production.
Japan’s pork imports from all suppliers showed renewed momentum in March, which helped boost US exports to Japan above year-ago levels for the first time this year. Led by strong demand for US chilled pork, March exports were 36,914 mt, up 3 per cent from a year ago and the largest volume since May 2015. March export value increased 5 per cent to $138.7 million. For the first quarter, exports to Japan were still lower year-over-year in both volume (94,982 mt, -9 per cent) and value ($363.2 million, -6 per cent).
Pork exports saw mixed results in North America in March, with exports to Mexico falling 17 per cent in volume (51,452 mt) and 16 per cent in value ($86.6 million). For the first quarter, exports to Mexico were down 11 per cent (159,947 mt) and 18 per cent ($262.7 million), respectively. March exports to Canada were the largest in six months at 18,871 mt, which was steady with last year. Export value slipped 4 per cent to $68.7 million. First-quarter exports to Canada were down 3 per cent from a year ago in volume (47,510 mt) and 9 per cent lower in value ($174.2 million).
Driven by strong growth in the Philippines, first-quarter exports to the ASEAN region increased 2 per cent in volume (9,658 mt) and 1 per cent in value ($21.1 million). Exports to the Philippines were up 10 per cent (8,007 mt) and 18 per cent (17,021 mt), respectively.
First-quarter pork exports to Central America were also higher in both volume (15,491 mt, +24 per cent) and value ($35.5 million, +9 per cent), led by strong growth in Honduras and Guatemala.
First-quarter exports equated to 24 per cent of total pork production and 20 per cent for muscle cuts only – both steady with last year. But for March, the muscle cut ratio was 22 per cent – the highest in 10 months. Export value averaged $44.41 per head in the first quarter, down 10 per cent from the same period last year.
ThePigSite News Desk
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