Slowdown in key markets hampers pork exports
Coming off a record year in which pork exports to Japan reached nearly $2 billion and export value to Mexico topped $1.1 billion, demand in both markets has slowed in 2013. Along with the shutdown of the Russian market – ranked No. 6 in export value last year at $281.7 million – this hindered U.S. pork's global performance in the first quarter despite gains in smaller, emerging markets.
Compared to the first quarter of 2012, pork exports to Japan fell 12% in volume (108,313 mt) and 9% in value ($482.5 million), partially as a result of the weaker yen. Exports to Mexico declined 15% in volume (137,506 mt) and 16% in value ($252.8 million).
Exports to Russia were down 62% in both volume (5,646 mt) and value ($17.5 million). Larger exports to neighboring countries, especially Ukraine, helped the overall performance in the Greater Russia region but exports were still down 41% in volume (9,221 mt) and 44% in value ($27.1 million).
Large domestic inventories impacted pork exports to China/Hong Kong (104,109 mt, -10%, valued at $219.5 million, -7%) and South Korea (34,841 mt, -35%, valued at $96.1 million, -38%). China's domestic pork prices recently dropped to the lowest level in more than two years despite a stockpiling program aimed at stabilizing the market. A voluntary herd-culling program initiated by the Korean government in an effort to boost domestic prices has also yielded disappointing results, creating a difficult environment for imported pork from all sources. According to the Global Trade Atlas, Korea's total pork imports fell 27% in volume and 35% in value in the first quarter. Despite the decline in imports from the United States, U.S. market share has increased in 2013.
Asia's first-quarter bright spot was the ASEAN region, where exports increased 37% in volume to 14,408 mt and 29% in value to $35.5 million. This was driven in large part by outstanding performance in the Philippines, where export volume increased 57% to 11,739 mt, valued at $28.1 million (+44%).
U.S. lamb exports bolstered by strong demand for variety meat
First-quarter lamb exports posted a 16% gain in value ($7.4 million) despite a 5% decline in volume (3,132 mt). Exports to leading market Mexico declined slightly in volume (2,364 mt) but increased 27% in value to $4.1 million. Global exports of lamb variety meat, a key contributor to carcass value, increased 19% in volume (2,161 mt) and 43% in value ($2.9 million)