USMEF: US Pork Exports Defy Expectations

US - While the US agriculture community undoubtedly has been feeling the significant effects of the global economic downturn, the export numbers for October continue to show progress over the previous year.
calendar icon 15 December 2008
clock icon 7 minute read

Pork exports in particular held up extremely well, posting the third-largest monthly volume on record that equates to a 46 per cent volume increase over exports from October of 2007 and a 55.5 per cent increase in value.

Specifically, pork and pork variety meat exports in October totaled 192,940 metric tons (425.4 million pounds) valued at $487 million – a new record for monthly export value. Export volume increased 18 percent over the previous month and trails only May and June of 2008 for most pork exported in a single month. For January through October, exports were up 67 percent to 1.7 million metric tons (3.8 billion pounds), with value surpassing $4.1 billion.

“The effects of the global economic turmoil are being felt in many markets, and these market conditions almost certainly have tempered the export numbers that we might have seen from US beef and pork had the credit markets not taken such a hit,” said Erin Daley, economist for the US Meat Export Federation.

“However, we are continuing to see the value and quality of US exports reflected in the export numbers,” she said. “Even with the depreciation in the value of many countries’ currencies, we’re still seeing strong performance by our beef and pork products, defying many expectations. USMEF does understand that some countries are having difficulty distributing imported meat due to dampened consumer demand. This is especially critical in areas like China, with large stocks of frozen pork, and Korea with large volumes of beef in storage. Prices were much higher, even for meat imported just a few months ago, making it difficult to sell under current market conditions.”

October pork highlights

  • Japan – US pork continues its reign as the king of imported pork in Japan. Exports to Japan set another monthly record at 41,961 metric tons (92.5 million pounds) valued at $158.5 million. For the year, US pork exports are up 27 percent in volume to 377,632 metric tons (832.5 million pounds) valued at $1.29 billion, an increase of 35 per cent. Japan accounts for 31 per cent of the total value of US pork exports and, when only muscle cuts are measured, Japan accounts for 39 percent of US pork export value.

  • Mexico – Exports to Mexico also set a new record for the month at 39,826 metric tons (87.8 million pounds), surpassing the July record and rebounding 35 percent from lower September volumes. Mexico was the second-largest destination for US pork for the month, but trails China/Hong Kong for year-to-date totals. During the first nine months of 2008, exports to Mexico stand at 307,056 metric tons (676.9 million pounds) valued at $549.6 million, an increase of 38 per cent in volume and 52 per cent in value over last year.

  • Russia – despite the credit crisis, the depreciation of the ruble, falling oil prices and general economic uncertainty, Russia set another record for US pork and variety meat imports in October at 31,744 metric tons (nearly 70 million pounds). Muscle cuts accounted for 17,444 metric tons (38.5 million pounds), with most likely subject to the 60 per cent duty or at least 1 euro/kg. This would equate to over-quota duties of nearly $27 million in October and in excess of $140 million for the first 10 months of the year.

Total pork exports to Russia for the year have surpassed 200,000 metric tons (441.7 million pounds) valued at $435.5 million, a 173 per cent increase in volume and 184 percent increase in value. Muscle cuts have accounted for nearly 70 per cent of US pork exports to Russia.

According to Russian import data, Russia surpassed the United States as the largest importer of beef in the world with 677,226 metric tons (1.5 billion pounds) of imports. During the first nine months of 2008, Russia reported that it imported about 2.3 million metric tons (5.1 billion pounds) of poultry, pork and beef during, trailing only China/Hong Kong (2.8 million metric tons or 6.2 billion pounds) as the largest meat importing region in the world. “Meat trade flow in 2009 will largely depend on production, prices and consumer demand in China and Russia,” Daley said.

  • China/Hong Kong – pork exports to this region remain above 2007 volumes, buoyed by continued strength in variety meat exports, with the majority of product going to Hong Kong. October exports totaled 27,361 metric tons (60.3 million pounds), up 21 per cent from September and 15 per cent from a year ago. Total 2008 exports equaled 357,962 metric tons (789.2 million pounds) valued at $618.4 million, a 178 per cent increase in volume and 209 per cent increase in value.

Daley noted that China’s domestic production growth, corresponding pork prices and consumer demand, given the economic slowdown, will determine pork exports to the region during 2009. “Thus far it appears that Chinese production continues to increase, with greater hog productivity given investment in commercial farms,” she said, “yet production profitability has fallen with the decline in hog prices and many producers are likely operating just around breakeven. Therefore, the incentive for further production growth in 2009 could be hampered by relatively lower profitability. Consumer demand also is expected to be sluggish through the winter and reported stocks of frozen imported pork are still weighing on the market.”

  • Canada – October’s exports dipped below 2007 levels, but export totals of 13,755 metric tons (30.3 million pounds) were relatively steady compared to previous months in 2008. For the year (January through October), exports totals of 139,672 metric tons (307.9 million pounds) are up 18 per cent from last year. Canada’s official challenge of COOL combined with the weak Canadian dollar, lower hog numbers and smaller live hog exports to the United States will influence trade in 2009, Daley said.

  • South Korea – exports in October were 10,283 metric tons (22.7 million pounds), a 24 per cent increase over October of 2007 and 10 per cent above the prior month. Exports for the first 10 months of 2008 were up 48 per cent to 112,281 metric tons (247.5 million pounds) valued at $240.4 million, a 33 percent increase over last year.

  • ASEAN – exports to this region were fairly strong at 3,500 metric tons (7.7 million pounds) in October, led by 2,262 metric tons (nearly 5 million pounds) to the Philippines. While these volumes are well below the summer peak, they remain 106.5 per cent above October 2007 for the region with exports to the Philippines up 137 per cent. For the 10-month period, exports to the region were up 350 per cent to 50,479 metric tons (111.3 million pounds), equaling a 364 per cent hike in value to $99.8 million. Export volume in the region thus far in 2008 has grown 232 per cent in the Philippines, 967 per cent in Vietnam and 364 per cent in Singapore.

  • European Union – pork muscle cut exports to the EU-27 totaled 5,302 metric tons (11.7 million pounds) in October, more than double last year’s volume, putting the 2008 10-month total at 44,568 metric tons (98.3 million pounds) valued at $121.6 million. Once again, USMEF stresses the importance of analyzing EU import data for a more accurate estimate of trade between the US and the EU. EU import data is only available through August, but imports are reported at about half of the export volumes reported by the United States, still a 167 per cent increase over last year.
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