Statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) show that May was a strong month for U.S. red meat exports, with shipments of both beef and pork increasing significantly year-over-year and reaching 2016 highs.
May beef export volume increased 12 percent from a year ago, and exports accounted for 14 percent of total beef production in May and 11 percent for muscle cuts only. Export value was 4 percent lower than a year ago, but still the highest since July 2015.
Pork exports were up 8 percent from a year ago, while export value increased 3 percent. Both totals were the highest since April 2015. Exports accounted for 28 percent of total pork production in May and 24 percent for muscle cuts only.
The largest drivers of the beef export growth seem to be the Japanese, Korean, and Mexican markets. May beef exports to Japan were the largest since September 2014, up 29 percent from a year ago, while value climbed 22 percent. Exports to South Korea were up 59 percent from a year ago and the largest in more than five years.
“With domestic beef supplies being very tight in both Japan and Korea, our spring marketing campaigns have focused on presenting U.S. beef as a high-quality, reasonably priced alternative,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “For example, USMEF-Japan’s training and support programs highlighting new merchandising techniques and cooking styles, including ‘Thick Cut American Beef’ and ‘American BBQ’ have greatly expanded sales of U.S. beef in regional supermarket chains, displacing domestic product as well as foreign competition. These regional retailers continue to work with USMEF in adding more beef cuts and utilizing new merchandising ideas, which is helping the U.S. industry win back market share in Japan.”
Despite the continued weakness of the peso, May beef exports to Mexico increased 33 percent from a year ago in volume, and 13 percent in value.
“From a price standpoint, the Mexican beef market is certainly one of our most challenging,” Seng said. “But with U.S. beef prices moderating in recent months, this creates excellent opportunities to win back customers – especially by promoting economically priced alternative cuts, which add quality and variety to restaurant menus and have also gained traction in the retail sector.”
China’s demand for U.S. pork has also remained incredibly strong. May pork exports to China/Hong Kong were up 85 percent from a year ago, while value climbed 87 percent, the largest since 2011 and the third-largest on record.
“The U.S. industry, as well as the other major pork exporters, has certainly benefited from the shortfall in China’s domestic production,” Seng noted. “However, falling hog prices in China suggest that demand for imported pork could begin to cool, so it was vitally important that exports to other key markets also gained momentum in May. USMEF is redoubling efforts to educate processors and other end users in China on the attributes of U.S. pork, so they fully understand the value U.S. pork delivers even after China’s domestic production rebounds.”
Complete export results are available here on USMEF’s statistics web page.