Exports of U.S. beef, pork and lamb closed 2013 on a mixed note, reports the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Beef exports eclipsed the $6 billion mark for the first time, setting a new annual value record, but at the same time, pork exports declined below 2012's record highs. Meanwhile, lamb sales rose in value on lower volumes, according to statistics released by the USDA.
In December, beef exports surpassed year-ago totals by nearly 13% in volume and 20% in value, led by growth in sales to Japan, Mexico, Hong Kong and Central/South America. Totals for 2013 were up 3% in volume to 1.17 million metric tons and 12% in value at $6.157 billion, breaking the 2012 value record.
Pork exports exceeded $6 billion for the third consecutive year, but declined 5% in volume and 4% in value behind 2012's record pace, finishing at 2.14 million mt valued at $6.05 billion. Mexico, Central/South America and the ASEAN region posted strong results in December to bring the month's totals up slightly from year-ago levels.
U.S. lamb exports closed with double-digit increases in volume and value in December to finish the year up 7% in value at $28.1 million on 6% lower volume. Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean continue to be the top lamb export markets.
"2013 presented a new set of challenges," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "Last year, the closure of the Russian market to U.S. red meat products and our continued absence from the dynamic beef market in the People's Republic of China stand out. And there were challenges in other markets, ranging from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia. The industry is focused on these challenges and USMEF is targeting the markets where we have the best chance of succeeding and creating a positive return for American producers and exporters."
The new milestone for U.S. beef export value also meant new records for the average export value per head: an annual record of $244.96 per head of fed slaughter, up $28.23 from 2012 and a new monthly record in December at $279.16, up $36.52 from December 2012.
U.S. beef exports in 2013 equated to 13.2% of total beef production (muscle cuts plus variety meat) and 10.4% of muscle cuts alone, up from 12.7 and 9.8% last year. The totals trended up in December, reaching 14.5% and 12%, respectively.