A strong performance by the top three international markets kept U.S. beef exports on an upward path in August while sales to China and several up-and-coming markets helped pork exports stay nearly even with last year's record-setting pace, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Beef sales to Japan, Mexico and Canada all posted solid gains in August along with a resurgent Taiwan market as overall U.S. beef exports grew 5% in volume and 16% in value compared to year-ago levels, reaching 105,544 metric tons valued at $563.3 million. For the first eight months of 2012, beef exports are up 1% in volume and 10% in value to 767,017 metric tons valued at $4.01 billion.
Pork exports were bolstered by the largest sales to the China/Hong Kong region since February, as well as strong performances by the Central/South America and ASEAN regions. Total exports for August were down a fraction in volume but up 1% in value, while 2013 totals were down 4.6% in volume and 4.5% in value.
The continued absence of the Russian market – closed to U.S. beef and pork products since February – continues to hinder exports. Excluding Russia, U.S. pork exports to all other markets are only down 1% this year, while beef exports are up 8% in volume and 16% in value.
"Challenges appear in many forms, including market closures and disruptions, international competition and product oversupply," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "For example, while the United States has enjoyed impressive growth in beef exports to Hong Kong, we remain locked out of the fastest-growing beef market in the world – China. And pressure from our international competitors is a significant factor in other markets, as we see in Japan, the top value export market for pork in the world."
Per-head export values remain strong
Both pork and beef exports produced solid per-head values in August. The export value per head of fed slaughter for beef in August averaged $253.87, up $46.16 from last year. For pork, per-head totals were $52.43, up from $49.84 last year.
Pork exports accounted for 21% of muscle cut production and 25% of total production in August, similar to last year. Beef exports accounted for 11% of muscle cuts and 13.6% of total production, up roughly 1 percentage point for each.