The first month of 2013 offered a mix of good news and challenges for exports of U.S. pork during January, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Pork exports rebounded slightly from December, but closed 7.6% lower in value on 11.7% smaller volumes compared to January 2012. The ASEAN region was the bright spot with 17.1% higher volumes and slightly higher (2.7%) value.
"The year ahead will offer no shortage of challenges to red meat exports, which will require our industry to be creative and aggressive," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO.
In Asia, Seng noted that an overabundance of domestic pork in South Korea is driving down demand for imports there while China's aggressive efforts to build its domestic pork industry appear to be bearing fruit as its need for imports declines.
Seng also indicated that the continued devaluation of the Japanese yen, which has fallen 20% in value versus the U.S. dollar since last summer, will be a factor in purchasing patterns by this key trading partner for pork.
Pork export highlights
For the month of January, pork exports totaled 186,681 metric tons valued at $523.7 million – declines of 11.7% in volume and 7.6% in value from last January, but up slightly from December's totals of 186,135 metric tons valued at $515.9 million.
Japan remains the value leader, buying 37,745 metric tons of U.S. pork (-9.5%) valued at $173.6 million (+1.7%).
Mexico remains the volume leader, purchasing 55,103 metric tons (-9%) valued at $102.7 million (-6.9%).
Russia posted the largest pork export gains at 3,314 metric tons (+8.2%) valued at $10.2 million (+9.7%), although some of that purchase may have been made in anticipation of Russia's closing of its borders to U.S. pork and beef in February.
The ASEAN region posted a 17.1% gain in pork volume (to 4,921 metric tons) and a 2.7% bump in value to $10.8 million.
"Looking ahead, USMEF is focusing on building demand for chilled and branded pork in both Japan and Korea as well as overall consumer demand for pork in Mexico," said Seng. "We will see benefits from these campaigns in the year ahead."
Lamb export highlights
Exports of U.S. lamb also were mixed, up 16.6% in value over last January's totals on lower volumes – down 28.2%. Totals for the month were 984 metric tons valued at $2.4 million.
Mexico remains the top export destination, buying 851 metric tons (86.5% of total exports) valued at $1.6 million (64.3% of total value). Sales to Mexico rose 37.2% in value on 16.7% lower volume for the month.
Canada and the Caribbean are the No. 2 and No. 3 regions for U.S. lamb exports, and both posted double-digit declines from year-ago levels.