Strong Momentum Continues for US Pork Exports

US - US pork and beef exports posted a strong May performance, increasing significantly from the previous month and from year-ago levels, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by USMEF.
calendar icon 10 July 2017
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Pork exports reached 222,015 metric tons (mt) in May, up 11 per cent year-over-year and the fourth-largest monthly volume on record. Pork export value was $583.2 million, up 16 per cent. For January through May, exports increased 14 per cent from a year ago in volume (1.05 million mt, a record pace) and 18 per cent in value ($2.68 billion).

Even with the growth in US pork production, exports account for a larger share in 2017. May exports equated to 29.4 per cent of total production and just under 25 per cent for muscle cuts only – up from 28.4 per cent and 24.3 per cent, respectively, last year. Through the first five months of 2017, exports accounted for 27.9 per cent of total production and 23.2 per cent for muscle cuts (up from 25.2 per cent and 21.3 per cent).

Exports are also commanding higher prices, indicative of strong demand across a wide range of international markets. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $58.61 in May, up 7 per cent from a year ago. The January-May average was $54.23, up 14 per cent.

May was a particularly strong month for variety meat exports, with pork variety meat volume climbing 16 per cent to 47,766 mt (a record high for May), and value up 33 per cent to $102.7 million. Beef variety meat exports reached 2017 highs in both volume (30,173 mt, up 12 per cent) and value ($77.7 million, up 10 per cent).

"2017 is shaping up as a very solid year for US pork and beef exports, but we remain in an extremely competitive situation in each of our key markets," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO.

"That’s why it is so important to capitalize on every opportunity to increase carcass value, and this is where variety meat plays an important role. USMEF has been working with our industry partners to expand the range of variety meat product offerings and diversify their destinations, and those efforts are paying important dividends for producers," Mr Seng said.

Pork exports solid throughout Western Hemisphere and in key Asian markets

Pork exports to leading volume market Mexico showed no signs of slowing from their torrid pace, as May volume climbed 21 per cent from a year ago to 68,763 mt and export value jumped 24 per cent to $130 million. Through May, exports to Mexico were up 23 per cent from a year ago in volume (333,853 mt) and 32 per cent in value ($606.6 million). In addition to strong demand for hams and other muscle cuts, Mexico is also competing with China for US pork variety meat. January-May variety meat exports to Mexico were up 14 per cent to 62,328 mt and value increased by one-third to $96.4 million.

Fueled by exceptional growth in Colombia and Chile, pork exports to Central and South America were up 66 per cent in volume (14,899 mt) in May and climbed 78 per cent in value ($37.4 million). Through the first five months of the year, exports to this region were up 49 per cent in volume to 68,640 mt and 53 per cent in value to $165.2 million. Chile’s imports are running 49 per cent ahead of last year’s record pace, with the US as its largest supplier (US share climbed from 19 per cent to 32 per cent, gaining in competitiveness versus Brazil). Colombia’s domestic pork production has not kept pace with demand and imports are up 55 per cent, with the US as the dominant supplier (US share is 83 per cent, up from 76 per cent last year).

Led by the Dominican Republic, demand for US pork is also strong in the Caribbean, where May exports increased 64 per cent from a year ago in volume (5,843 mt) and 58 per cent in value ($13.4 million). For January through May, exports jumped 32 per cent from a year ago in both volume (22,726 mt) and value ($53.2 million).

Turning to the Asian markets, pork exports to leading value destination Japan were significantly higher in May, climbing 11 per cent in volume (35,641 mt) and 20 per cent in value ($145.5 million). Through May, exports to Japan increased 6 per cent in volume (169,774 mt) and 12 per cent in value ($686.3 million). This included a 2 per cent increase in chilled pork to 91,236 mt, valued at $425 million (up 11 per cent). US market share in Japan has increased slightly from last year, reaching 36 per cent. But competition remains fierce, with the EU dominating frozen pork imports and Canada continuing to make gains in the high-value chilled sector.

South Korea is a top performer for US pork with January-May exports increasing 31 per cent from a year ago in volume (81,313 mt) and 40 per cent in value ($221.6 million). Although Korea’s pork production is running slightly higher than last year, demand for pork is very strong and US pork is an increasingly attractive option. With online shopping especially popular in Korea and home meal replacement products and other convenience items offered both online and in stores, USMEF continues to introduce new US processed pork items. The US dominates Korea’s processed pork market, with imports from the US valued at $24 million through May, up 3 per cent.

Corresponding with the decline in China’s hog prices, pork muscle cut demand in China/Hong Kong continues to soften compared to last year’s record imports, but variety meat demand remains strong. Through May, combined pork and pork variety meat exports to the region fell 2 per cent below last year’s pace in volume (228,827 mt) but remained 5 per cent higher in value ($461.9 million). January-May variety meat exports were up 20 per cent in volume (143,767 mt) and 29 per cent in value ($304.2 million, accounting for 64 per cent of the global total). Pork variety meat exports to China/Hong Kong equated to $6.15 for every US hog harvested in the first five months of this year, up 25 per cent from last year.

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