US 2020 pork exports shatter previous records - USMEF

US pork exports reached nearly 3 million metric tonnes (mt) in 2020, topping the 2019 record by 11 percent, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

11 February 2021, at 7:00am

Pork export value also climbed 11 percent to a record $7.71 billion.

“Obviously the surge in demand from China, especially in the first half of 2020, was a driving force behind the record performance for US pork exports,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “But China was not the only success story in 2020, as exports achieved growth in a broad range of markets. Diversifying export markets is a top priority for USMEF and the US industry, and that strategy paid dividends – especially in the fourth quarter, when exports to China/Hong Kong were down 9 percent from 2019 but shipments to the rest of the world nearly offset that slowdown.”

“Consumers across the world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by seeking high-quality products they could enjoy at home, and US beef and pork definitely met this need,” Halstrom said. “We expect these retail and home-delivery demand trends to continue even as sit-down restaurant dining recovers, creating robust opportunities for US red meat export growth.”

December pork exports totalled 259,654 mt, down 8 percent from the very large year-ago volume, with value down 10 percent to $687.2 million. December muscle cut exports were also down 8 percent at 219,224 mt, valued at $590.2 million (down 11 percent). For the full year, pork muscle cut exports were record-large at 2.51 million mt, up 15 percent from 2019, valued at a record $6.67 billion (up 12 percent).

Pork export value equated to $59.87 per head slaughtered in December, down 10 percent from a year ago, but the full-year average of $58.65 per head was 10 percent above 2019. December exports accounted for 28.8 percent of total pork production and 26.1 percent for muscle cuts, down from the December 2019 ratios of 32.1 percent and 29.3 percent, respectively. But for the full year, exports accounted for a significantly higher percentage of both total pork production (29.3 percent, up from 26.9 percent) and muscle cuts (26.5 percent, up from 23.6 percent).

Pork exports reach new highs in China/Hong Kong, Central America, Chile and Vietnam; strong momentum in Mexico and Japan

Pork exports to China/Hong Kong totalled 1.04 million mt in 2020, up 56 percent from a year ago, while value climbed 63 percent to $2.37 billion. Shipments to the region accounted for about one-third of total US export volume, but this percentage declined later in the year as exports achieved more broad-based growth. While USMEF does not expect 2021 exports to China/Hong Kong to match the levels posted over the past year, the region will still have a strong need for imported pork.

While pork exports to Mexico finished lower in both volume (688,253 mt, down 3 percent) and value ($1.15 billion) compared to 2019, the market showed an impressive rebound late in the year. December exports increased 8 percent to 71,426 mt, the third consecutive month of year-over-year volume growth.

Pork exports to Japan also gained momentum in the fourth quarter (up 12 percent) as the US industry continued to capitalize on tariff relief provided in the US-Japan Trade Agreement. 2020 exports to Japan finished 5 percent higher than a year ago at 386,700 mt, with value up 6 percent to $1.63 billion. US market share rebounded to 36 percent of Japan’s total pork imports, up from a low of 31 percent in 2019.

Other 2020 highlights for US pork exports include

  • Led by strong growth in Honduras and Nicaragua, exports to Central America topped the previous record set in 2019 by 1 percent in both volume (99,222 mt) and value ($241.1 million). This marked the sixth consecutive year for record pork exports to the region.
  • While pork exports to South America were substantially lower in 2020, Chile emerged as a bright spot with surging fourth-quarter demand. Exports to Chile finished the year 16 percent higher at 49,828 mt, with value up 11 percent to $135.6 million. US pork gained market share in Chile, as total imports were similar to 2019 but Chile’s exports surged, with more than 70 percent of its export volume bound for China. US exports to Colombia, the regions’ largest destination for US pork, declined sharply due to COVID-19 restrictions and a slumping Colombian peso, but demand showed strong signs of recovery late in the year and in early 2021.
  • Despite a slow start to the year, exports to the Philippines were 15 percent higher in volume (46,665 mt) and jumped 24 percent in value ($115 million), finishing just short of the record levels of 2018. Exports to Vietnam were record-large at 25,183 mt, up 82 percent, with value nearly tripling to $54.4 million. It was also a record year for ASEAN region, with exports up 28 percent in volume (77,149 mt) and 43 percent higher in value ($186.3 million).
  • Strong demand in the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago pushed exports to the Caribbean 10 percent higher in volume (57,353 mt) and 5 percent higher in value ($136.8 million). Trinidad and Tobago is the region’s top destination for pork variety meats, with 2020 exports climbing 58 percent to a record 1,736 mt, valued at $3.1 million (up 72 percent).