Beef exports were up in Japan as the country regained leading position as top market for U.S. beef for the first time since 2003. Overall, they moved 49% higher in volume and 44% higher in value for the year.
"Many observers felt USMEF's growth projections for Japan were overly bullish," Seng said. "But we were keenly aware of the unmet demand from existing buyers and the opportunities to secure new business once we had a wider supply available. This shows once again the importance of having experienced staff on the ground who know how to direct marketing resources in a way that will maximize results."
While Japanese growth is encouraging, USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng said a safeguard that can increase tariffs if beef import volumes rise too quickly in the country, is still an important consideration for U.S. exporters.
Hong Kong maintained its rapid growth and Taiwan regained momentum from last year's slowdown as well.
Exports to Hong Kong, which also recently expanded access for U.S. beef to include bone-in cuts and some products from cattle over 30 months of age, soared by 87% in volume and 79% in value in the first four months of the year.
While exports to Taiwan slowed in 2011 and 2012 due to an impasse over beta agonists, this year's January-April exports exceed the pace achieved when this market was performing at its peak, with exports beating last year's pace by 84% in volume and 129% in value.
Exports were hampered, however, in Mexico and South Korea. In the case of Mexico, the price point relative to other competing proteins continues to be an issue that has proven difficult to overcome as exports declined 22% in volume and 25% in value compared to a year ago.
In Korea, the main issue is an oversupply of domestic protein, which has created a difficult climate for imported products. Exports to Korea were down 20% in volume and 9% in value.
Mexico showed double-digit growth in April for pork, this following a slow start to the year. Central and South America, the ASEAN region and the Caribbean all grew 30% or more for April.
April pork exports totaled 174,073 mt valued at $475.1 million – down 5% and 7%, respectively, from a year ago. Through the first four months of the year, pork exports were 10% below last year's pace in both volume and value.