January exports of U.S. beef and pork were up significantly year-over-year, maintaining the solid momentum established in fourth quarter 2016, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Beef exports totaled 96,488 metric tons, up 17 percent from a year ago, valued at $515.5 million—up 18 percent and the highest ever for the month of January. Exports accounted for 12.2 percent of total beef production and 9.5 percent for muscle cuts only—with both ratios being fairly steady with January 2016. Export value per head of fed slaughter was $256.62, up 7 percent from a year ago.
January pork exports were up 21 percent from a year ago in volume (202,667 mt) and jumped 26 percent in value to $508.6 million. Exports accounted for 26.2 percent of total pork production and 21.7 percent for muscle cuts—up significantly from the respective January 2016 shares of 22.3 percent and 18.8 percent. Pork export value averaged $50.23 per head slaughtered, up 21 percent from a year ago.
“The red meat industry entered 2017 with an optimistic outlook, confident that we can continue our recent strong momentum in the international markets,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “The January results certainly validate that feeling, but we understand that significant challenges still lie ahead. With record-large pork production and beef production also trending higher it’s more important than ever that we capitalize on our abundance of protein, and move more product out of the country by growing U.S. market share in established markets and breaking new ground in emerging destinations.”
Beef exports still red-hot in key Asian markets
Beef exports were higher year-over-year to most major destinations, but Japan and South Korea continued to be the pacesetters for the start of 2017. Exports to Japan were up 34 percent in both volume (22,487 mt) and value ($125.2 million), with muscle cut exports climbing 41 percent. Exports to Korea achieved similar growth, with volume up 35 percent to 15,194 mt and value increasing 36 percent to $91.6 million—maintaining the pace that carried exports to Korea over the $1 billion mark for the first time last year.
Other January highlights for U.S. beef include:
Exports to Mexico were 26 percent above last year’s pace in volume (19,151 mt) and up 11 percent in value ($76.2 million). Exports to Canada also rebounded, up 8 percent in volume and 11 percent in value (9,885 mt; $60.8 million). • Following a record year for export value, exports to Taiwan climbed 24 percent in both volume (3,591 mt) and value ($29.9 million).• Led by growth in the Philippines and renewed momentum for U.S. beef in Indonesia, exports to the ASEAN region were up 56 percent in volume to 2,556 mt and 45 percent in value to $14.1 million.
Mexico continues to shine for U.S. pork
Coming off the fifth consecutive record year for pork export volume to Mexico, the Mexican market shows no signs of letting up. January volume climbed nearly one-third higher than a year ago to 72,406 mt—the third-largest monthly total on record. Export value was up even more dramatically, increasing 50 percent to $128.7 million, as Mexico’s strong buying helped sustain higher U.S. ham prices.
Pork exports to China/Hong Kong were up 17 percent from a year ago in volume (38,012 mt) and 19 percent in value ($76.2 million). U.S. exports to China/Hong Kong peaked last May at 58,000 mt and regained momentum in November and December, averaging 47,000 mt per month, with strong buying ahead of Chinese New Year. China’s hog prices have softened following the holiday, and are down about 5 percent year-over-year.
Japan took 31,597 mt of U.S. pork in January, up 6 percent year-over-year, valued at $125.7 million (up 11 percent). Following a record year in 2016, U.S. chilled pork exports to Japan continued to grow in January, up 12 percent from a year ago to 17,619 mt.
Other January highlights for U.S. pork include:
Exports to Korea continued their recent upward trend, climbing 32 percent in volume (16,073 mt) and 48 percent in value ($45.1 million) year-over-year. Korea’s domestic pork prices have exceeded year-ago levels since late December due to a number of factors, including strong demand (especially for pork belly), relatively high domestic beef prices and most recently concerns about foot-and-mouth disease, which impacted domestic beef production.
Exports to Central and South America continue to reflect growing demand for U.S. pork, with both volume (14,240 mt) and value ($33.1 million) up nearly 60 percent year-over-year. Muscle cut exports to Colombia were the second-largest on record in January—trailing only November 2016—at 6,155 mt. Combined muscle cut and variety meat exports were also higher for Honduras, Guatemala, Panama and Peru.
Australia—a key destination for boneless hams and other raw materials for further processing—maintained its recent strong momentum with volume increasing 26 percent to 6,498 mt and value up 34 percent to $17.9 million.
Exports to the Dominican Republic were record-large at 2,746 mt valued at $6.2 million, up 24 percent and 37 percent, respectively, from a year ago.
Slow start for lamb exports, but muscle cuts trend higher
U.S. lamb exports continue to be held back by weak variety meat volumes. January muscle cut exports increased 42 percent from a year ago in volume (194 mt) and 29 percent in value (to just under $1 million), but this was offset by lower variety meat exports. Combined export volume was 573 mt (down 41 percent) valued at $1.4 million (down 8 percent). Exports were lower to most markets, but increased to Jordan and the Netherlands Antilles.