CME: US Pork Exports Up 10 Per Cent

14 September 2012, at 1:08pm

US - Pork exports in July continued to track above year ago levels but the trend for much of the year has been towards lower export volumes, write Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.

It is likely that pork exports will be lower than a year ago in the second half of the year although the sharp break in US pork prices could encourage higher shipments to markets such as Mexico, which tend to be very price sensitive.

Total US pork exports in July were 134,170 MT, up 1.4 per cent from a year ago. Year to date, US pork exports are up some 10 per cent from last year. Exports to Mexico in July were 33,024 MT, up 20.3 per cent from last year while shipments to Canada at 17,153 MT were up 14.6 per cent from last year. Exports to China/Hong Kong, which drove the growth in exports last year, have slowed down considerably and in July were pegged at 19,661 MT, less than half of what they were in late 2011.

Japan has emerged as the top market for US beef and it may become an even more important customer should the Japanese government accept the recommendation of an expert commission and lift the cattle age requirement for US beef.

Total monthly US exports of fresh/frozen beef and veal to Japan in July were 17,130 MT, 16 per cent higher than the comparable month a year ago. This is also the largest monthly volume since December 2003. Despite the increase in volume, US shipments are much smaller than those of Australia to the Japanese market.

In July, Australia shipped about 31,028 MT of beef to Japan. Back in 2003, US monthly beef shipments to Japan averaged about 25,000 MT a month while those from Australia averaged around 23,000 MT a month. But even as beef exports to Japan have been consistently on the rise, albeit with significant seasonality, shipments to other markets have struggled. High priced US beef and a stronger US dollar clearly remains an impediment to expanding beef exports to other markets, including markets in North America.

Canada is the second largest market for US beef. July beef and veal exports to this market were 15,432 MT, 31 per cent lower than a year ago. Indeed, in the first seven months of the year, US beef exports to Canada have declined some 10% from last year.

Beef exports to Mexico, once the top market for US beef, also are down. July volume was pegged at 10,225 MT, down some 21 per cent from last year and down 17% year to date. One market that has shown a dramatic decline has been Taiwan, with exports in July at just 172 MT, down 94% from last year. Concerns about ractopamine levels became a significant impediment to trade this year but the issue appears to be on a resolution path and new rules that specify acceptable levels are expected to come into effect in mid September.

It will take some time for beef exports to this market to resume as trade will test the new rules before fully resuming shipments. The new Taiwan residue levels will be comparable to those in Japan and S. Korea. Total US beef exports in July were 76,385 MT, the largest monthly volume for the year but still some 15 per cent lower than a year ago.