U.S. pork exports in September were steady with last year's volume, while beef exports were well below a year ago. Despite sluggish volumes, however, the value of both pork and beef exports through the third quarter of 2012 remains ahead of last year's record-setting pace, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
"We are definitely in a challenging economic environment, which is making it difficult to match last year's export volumes," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "But our products continue to command an excellent price in the international markets and provide substantial returns to U.S. producers, which is critically important at a time when they face extremely high production costs."
September pork exports reached 183,853 metric tons (mt), slightly exceeding last year's total. Though export value declined 6% compared to last year to $505 million, it was about 2% higher than the August value of $495.5 million.
For January through September, pork exports were up 2% in volume at 1.657 million metric tons and up 6% in value to $4.6 billion. Exports equated to 23.6% of muscle cut production and 27% when including both muscle cuts and variety meat (compared to last year's ratios of 22.8% and 27%). Export value equated to $56.16 per head slaughtered, 4.5% above the per-head average established during the same period last year.
With fewer production days this year, September beef production declined 9% and exports fell 17% in volume to 90,538 mt. September export value dropped 4% to $442.8 million, but was significantly higher on a per-head-of-fed-slaughter basis – increasing 7% to $227.65.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Despite January-September beef export volume being down 12% to 850,439 mt, export value totaled $4.1 billion. This was 2% above last year's record pace and already exceeded the 2010 full calendar year total of $4.08 billion. Exports equated to 9.8% of muscle cut production and 12.7% when including both muscle cuts and variety meat, compared to last year's ratios of 11% and 14%. Export value averaged $213.63 per head of fed slaughter, up about 6% compared to the same period in 2011.
Mexico leads September pork market highlights
September pork exports were led by strong growth in Mexico (51,510 mt, +24%, valued at $92.8 million, +7%). For the year, exports to Mexico were 15% higher in volume (443,442 mt) and 11% higher in value ($820 million). Mexico is the leading volume market for U.S. pork and ranks second in value to Japan.
September exports to Japan trended lower, but are still on pace for an excellent year. Through the first nine months of 2012, export value to Japan was up 4% to $1.495 billion despite a 6% decline in volume to 344,362 mt.
Exports to Canada have posted steady growth in 2012, with January-September volume up 14% to 172,812 mt and value climbing 16% to $628.2 million. September export volume was record-large at 22,229 mt, breaking the previous record set in August.
Led by outstanding growth in Colombia, exports to Central and South America continue to surge. Exports through September were 20% higher in both volume (60,739 mt) and value ($154.5 million) compared to last year. For Colombia, exports were up 74% in volume (12,350 mt) and 110% in value ($35.1 million). September export volume to Colombia also set a monthly record at 2,131 mt.
January-September exports to the China/Hong Kong region were still ahead of last year's pace in both volume (313,425 mt, +4%) and value ($632.4 million, +21%). China's domestic pork inventory, however, is much higher than a year ago and exports in the fourth quarter are unlikely to match last year. Accordingly, September exports of 30,788 mt were the highest since May but were still 35% lower than the September 2011 volume.
Beef exports to Japan remain red-hot
September beef exports to Japan were just 2% higher than last year in volume (12,487 mt), but surged nearly 25% in value to $86.6 million. This was consistent with the January-September performance in which exports were steady in volume (121,207 mt) but 23% higher in value ($806.1 million).
Japan now ranks second in export value to Canada, where January-September exports were down 13% in volume (125,625 mt) but still achieved a 5% increase in value ($829.7 million).
Mexico remains the leading volume market for U.S. beef, but exports to Mexico have struggled in 2012, – reflecting a weak peso and sluggish economy. Through September, exports to Mexico were 21% lower than a year ago in volume (151,767 mt) and 12% lower in value ($642.6 million).
With an expanded tariff-rate quota helping boost demand, beef exports to Russia are on pace for another record year. January-September exports were up 8% in volume (61,923 mt) and 24% in value ($242 million) over the same period last year.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Though U.S. beef still lacks access to mainland China, export growth to Hong Kong has made the region a 2012 bright spot. Exports to Hong Kong were up 14% in volume through September at 43,038 mt, and increased 32% in value to $224 million.
Led by remarkable growth in Chile and solid performances in Peru and Guatemala, January-September exports to Central and South America climbed 36% in volume (26,186 mt) and were 73% higher in value ($99.2 million). In fact, exports to the region have already exceeded last year's full calendar year records of 25,823 mt and $85.5 million.
September lamb export value steady with last year
U.S. lamb exports, which have battled a tough economic environment in 2012, were lower in volume in September (1,336 mt, - 6%) but roughly steady in value at $2.3 million. For January through September, exports were down 30% in volume (10,050 mt) and 16% in value ($19.6 million). With U.S. lamb still lacking access to many key global markets, the USMEF board of directors adopted a resolution last week urging the U.S. government to make access for U.S. lamb a higher priority in trade negotiations.
Complete export results for pork, beef and lamb are available online.