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US Pork Exports Post Solid Gains in May

by 5m Editor
16 July 2010, at 10:11am

US - US pork and beef exports continued their strong 2010 performance in May, collectively growing 25 per cent in value versus 2009 and eight per cent over April of 2010, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

At $769.5 million, US red meat exports reached their highest monthly value since October 2008. For producers, the gain in export value per animal processed in May was impressive: $53.10 per animal on the pork side – nearly 30 per cent higher than the $40.90 recorded in May 2009.

May pork export value increased 22 per cent over a year ago and five per cent from April 2010, reaching $419.3 million. Export volume of 162,865 metric tons (359 million pounds) was up 13 per cent over last year and four per cent from the previous month.

The pork industry is seeing a higher return per pound on its exports in 2010. The value of those exports hit $1.9 billion for the first five months of 2010, a five per cent increase over last year. At the same time, the volume of exports this year is 787,869 metric tons (1.7 billion pounds), essentially even with last year's pace.

Pork muscle cut exports are up four per cent in volume and nine per cent in value over last year, while variety meat exports are down 13 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively.

"The recognition of the quality and value of US beef, pork and lamb is growing in the international markets," said USMEF President and CEO, Philip Seng. "The feedback we receive from both buyers and consumers tells us that even with the gains we are seeing, there are opportunities for continued export growth in key segments and niches of even the most well-developed markets, like Japan and South Korea."

USMEF Chairman, Jim Peterson, a rancher from Buffalo, Montana, added that gaining and maintaining access to key markets such as Russia and China are critically important to the bottom line of US producers.

He said: "The value of exports per head we saw in May – more than $53 per head in pork and $160 per head in beef – is a vivid illustration of how important it is for producers to put resources into our key export markets. The bulk of the growth in sales and profitability that our industry can expect in the future will come from the international marketplace, and USMEF is working hard to ensue that growth is achieved."

May pork exports solid worldwide, with boost from resumption of Russia, China trade

Though well below last year's pace, the recent resumption of exports to Russia and China have begun to have a positive impact on the global results for US pork. Exports to Russia are still around 50 per cent below the first five months of 2009 in both volume (24,386 metric tons or 53.8 million pounds) and value ($55 million). But May results showed significant progress as exports returned to 88 per cent of the volume and 97 per cent of the value achieved in May 2009. The picture is similar in China, where the cumulative 2010 total is still quite small but May exports were down only 15 per cent from one year ago and the value ($10.2 million) was actually 31 per cent higher. (It was in late May 2009 when China effectively closed to US pork due to A-H1N1 influenza.)

Mexico continues to be the largest volume destination for US pork, increasing seven per cent in volume (225,672 metric tons or 497.5 million pounds) and 27 per cent in value ($401.5 million) over the record pace established in 2009. May exports slowed slightly compared to the previous month, however, due in part to record-high ham prices.

Exports to Japan – by far the largest foreign market for US pork in terms of value – remain below last year's pace but are showing signs of recovery from the slump encountered in early 2010. May exports exceeded the year-ago level by 18 per cent in both volume and value, raising the cumulative total to 180,326 metric tons (397.5 million pounds) valued at $671.2 million. For the year, pork exports to Japan remain down six per cent in volume and three per cent in value from 2009. Muscle cut exports to Japan are within four per cent in volume and two per cent in value of their 2009 pace, but variety meat exports are down by about one-third.

Pork exports to Hong Kong continued their strong momentum in May, with the cumulative 2010 total reaching 95,686 metric tons (nearly 211 million pounds) valued at $135.2 million – an increase of 40 per cent in volume and 24 per cent in value. Hong Kong is a considerable bright spot for pork variety meat, with exports up 56 per cent in volume and 44 per cent in value. Muscle cut exports to Hong Kong also have increased in both volume (23 per cent) and value (11 per cent) over the first five months of 2009.

Other market highlights include:

  • Exports to Canada are up 15 per cent in volume (73,810 metric tons or 162.7 million pounds) and 25 per cent in value ($246.5 million) over January to May 2009. Through June, live hog imports from Canada were 16 per cent smaller than last year at 2.79 million head. This is roughly one quarter of Canadian hog slaughter, compared to about 30 per cent over the same period last year.
  • The Philippines has emerged as a tremendous growth market for US pork, with volume nearly doubling over last year (to 29,227 metric tons or 64.4 million pounds) and value increasing by 119 per cent to more than $55 million. Despite a slowdown in Viet Nam, exports to the ASEAN region have increased 57 per cent in volume and 73 percent in value compared to the start of 2009.
  • May exports to Central and South America were down slightly from April but the cumulative total increased 42 per cent in volume (25,264 metric tons or 55.7 million pounds) and 46 per cent in value (to $56.4 million) over last year. The top markets of Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia all achieved significant growth.

After a strong showing in April, pork exports to South Korea slowed again in May as the yearly total fell about 25 per cent below last year's pace. Monthly exports were about even in volume with May 2009, and actually exceeded their year-ago value by about 10 per cent. Exports in May 2009, however, were unusually low due to the A-H1N1 influenza scare. When compared to May 2008, exports to Korea were down by about one-third.

One factor behind this decline has been the rising price of US picnics, a mainstay export item to Korea. Picnics are primarily used in processing, so they tend to be price-sensitive. Korea's domestic pork production is up about eight per cent over last year, resulting in a drop in prices of more than 10 per cent. The United States is still the largest foreign supplier of pork to Korea, but Chile has emerged as a top competitor. Chilean pork faces lower tariffs in Korea due to recent implementation of a bilateral free trade agreement.

"Despite some challenges in Korea, we're seeing strong results for US pork in most of our key destinations," Mr Seng said. "Mexico has proven to be very resilient to rising pork prices, as have many of our Asian markets. Rising prices can sometimes create issues in these markets, but so far consumers are clearly willing to pay for the quality delivered by US pork. In the one market where price seems to be a hindrance, we're being undersold in part because of an imbalance in tariff rates."