Pork Exports Dip Slightly

US - Mexico is the biggest buyer of the country's pork and beef values are growing despite volumes staying low, according to USDA statistic compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
calendar icon 14 January 2013
clock icon 5 minute read

US pork exports for the first 11 months of 2012 continued to exceed the record-setting pace of 2011, the value of beef exports remained slightly above 2011’s record levels despite continued lower volumes.

With only one month yet to be recorded for 2012, pork exports continue to top 2011 levels by two per cent in volume (2,075,974 mt) and five per cent in value ($5.8 billion), while totals for November declined 7.7 per cent in volume and 5.4 per cent in value versus last year. It is important to note, however, that November 2011 ranks as the second-best month in history (behind October 2012) for U.S. pork exports.

Mexico continues to perform as the United States’ top pork volume destination, with November’s totals up 7.2 percent in volume and 4.6 percent in value, pushing the 11-month totals to 550,408 mt (up 15 percent) valued at just over $1 billion (up 11 per cent).

Although exports to Japan are trailing 2011 volume, they could still eclipse the $2 billion mark this year, with value up 3 per cent through November and volume down 6 percent.

Other top pork markets in November were Canada (up 15.3 per cent in volume and 17.1 per cent in value), South Korea (up 26.4 per cent in volume and 8.5 per cent in value), Russia (up 100 per cent in volume and 78.7 percent in value), and Central/South America (up 21.1 per cent in volume and 10 per cent in value).

With U.S. production declining in 2012, beef exports fell a modest 1 per cent in value on a 13.3 per cent drop in volume in November. For the year, volumes are down 11 per cent (1,043,151 mt) but the value of those exports is $5.05 billion – still 2 per cent above the record-setting value pace of 2011.

Canada (up 18.5 per cent in volume and 37.8 per cent in value), Hong Kong (up 18.8 percent and 62.6 per cent in volume and value, respectively), Russia (up 19 per cent in volume and 4 per cent in value) and Central/South America (up 42.4 per cent in volume and 56.3 per cent in value; including record exports to Chile, up 119 per cent) were the top-performing beef export markets in November. Export value to South Korea increased nearly 6 per cent on a slight decline in volume.

“Volume has been an issue for beef exports all year,“ noted USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “That continued in November, but an appreciated value of those products has helped the industry hold its own in a challenging year.“

Beef exports to price-sensitive markets like Mexico are down this year, but the value of exports to premium markets like Japan (up 19 per cent for the year) and Canada (up 13 per cent) continue to grow even as volumes remain low.

Another positive for beef exporters is the rebound of the Taiwan market, which was once a top five U.S. beef export market but was hindered for most of this year by ractopamine-related barriers that have since been resolved.

In November, the value of beef sales to Taiwan jumped 13.7 per cent over last year on slightly reduced volumes. For the year, exports to Taiwan are down 48 per cent in volume and 40 per cent in value, but recent numbers are encouraging for 2013. Pork exports to Taiwan, however, continue to be affected by Taiwanese restrictions on products with ractopamine residues.

“There is no question that rising production costs and slowing economic growth have kept buyers on the sidelines or moved them toward less expensive options,“ said Seng.

He noted that higher domestic meat production in certain markets (such as Korea, Japan and China) also have affected exports this year. Market access issues – such as Indonesia’s tighter import quotas aimed at boosting domestic production and Saudi Arabia’s closure due to BSE – have also impacted exports.

“While volumes are lower, the quality and reputation of U.S. red meat products have helped support higher values, and that is not a statement that most of our competitors in the international marketplace can make,“ he said.

Year-to-date, U.S. pork exports account for 27 per cent of total production (23.5 percent for just muscle cuts) and the per-head export value is $56.12 – up 3 per cent from last year. Beef exports account for 12.6 per cent of total production (9.8 percent for just muscle cuts) with a per-head value of $214.64, up 5 per cent from last year.

Complete export results for pork, beef and lamb are available online.

Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat unless otherwise noted One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds

Michael Priestley

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