U.S. beef and pork exports increased sharply in March, pushed higher by accelerating increases in markets like Mexico, the China/Hong Kong region and South Korea, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
U.S. pork exports reached their highest monthly total since October 2012 at 209,704 metric tons, valued at $606.7 million. That's an increase of 29% in both volume and value over March 2013.
Exports of U.S. beef rose 12% in volume to 93,380 mt valued at $516.2 million, an increase of 17%.
When measured in proportion to overall U.S. beef and pork production, March exports also showed gains. Total pork export – muscle cuts plus variety meat – equated to 31.5% of total U.S. pork production in March (26% of muscle cuts alone) versus 28% and 23.5%, respectively, a year ago.
Beef exports accounted for 14% of total production and 11% of muscle cuts – up from 12% and 9% in 2013.
The export value per head slaughtered set a new record of $69.93 for pork in March, topping the $60 per head mark for the first time and up from $50.38 last year. The export value per head of fed slaughter for beef was $271.57, up from $222.20 a year ago.
"Even with high prices and supply concerns, we are working to keep the visibility of U.S. beef and pork high in our key export markets, and they continue to respond positively," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO.
"Among the many encouraging signs are the continued strength of the Mexican market in both pork and beef, and the rebound of South Korea, which has been an area of focus for USMEF as that market has been challenged over the past year by an over-supply of domestic product," Seng said.
PEDV continues to impact pork market
Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus has been a factor both in the U.S. and in a number of export markets, creating supply concerns going into the summer. Despite PEDV and a 4% decline in U.S. pork production for the month, exports remained strong in March to virtually all key markets. Thus, the export increase likely reflects the fact that some product was shipped out of cold storage from previous months' production.
• Mexico: up 38% in volume (54,284 mt) and 75% in value ($121 million).
• Japan: up 22% in volume (45,358 mt) and 8% in value ($175.3 million). This was the largest monthly sales volume to Japan since May 2011, driven by growth in chilled and ground seasoned pork exports.
• Hong Kong/China: up 49% in volume (41,295 mt) and 59% in value ($93.6 million) – the largest monthly total since February 2013, reflecting growth in muscle cut sales.
• South Korea: up 73% in volume (16,104 mt) and 83% in value ($46.4 million) – the biggest export month since March 2012.
• ASEAN: up 90% in volume (9,703 mt) and 93% in value ($25.4 million).
• Central/South America: up 29% in volume (10,985 mt) and 32% in value ($28.5 million), driven by record exports to Colombia (5,049 mt, up 193%; valued at $12.6 million, up 177%).
Beef production dips, but exports positive
U.S. beef production dipped 5% in March and 5% for the first quarter compared to year-ago levels, but exports remained positive, helping to set a new record for the Choice beef cutout value in mid-March at $2.42 per pound.
• Mexico: up 82% in volume (19,495 mt) and 94% in value ($90.1 million).
• Japan: down 10% in volume (16,649 mt) and 6% in value ($107.5 million) compared to year-ago levels as sales to Japan surged in March 2013 upon the announcement of expanded market access. U.S. beef exports to Japan for the first quarter remain up 21% in volume (46,681 mt) and 16% in value ($292.1 million).
• Hong Kong: up 88% in volume (12,224 mt) and 112% in value ($80.6 million) – continuing the upward trend since access for U.S. beef was expanded in February 2013.
• South Korea: up 10% in volume (9,601 mt) and 37% in value ($65.8 million), despite being a primary target for Australia's drought-related surge in beef production and exports.
• Central/South America: up 4% in volume (2,864 mt) and 16% in value ($13 million), driven by larger shipments to Colombia and Guatemala.