February beef export value remains strong

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation

U.S. pork exports remained well ahead of last year’s record pace through February, while beef exports trended slightly lower in volume but posted excellent results in terms of value, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

February beef export volume of 87,131 metric tons (mt) was 3 percent lower than a year ago but export value remained exceptionally strong, increasing 10 percent to $409 million. Through the first two months of the year, beef exports totaled 176,585 mt, down 2 percent, and valued at $815 million,  a 12 percent increase.

Pork export volume of 187,629 mt was 9 percent higher than in February 2011, while value, at $526.2 million, was up 21 percent. For the first two months of the year, pork exports totaled 399,086 mt valued at $1.09 billion – increases of 18 percent and 31 percent, respectively. This is the first time U.S. pork export value has reached the $1 billion mark after only two months.

“Export results were quite solid, especially considering the impact of market access issues in some destinations, particularly Taiwan and Southeast Asia,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “We continue to expand the presence of U.S. pork in all key destinations – especially in North Asia and in Western Hemisphere markets. In the beef complex, export volume may be struggling somewhat due to price, but we are having great success directing beef cuts to the markets that value them most. This is keeping beef export value very strong – well ahead of the record pace established last year.”

Russia, Middle East, Latin America lead beef export value surge

February beef exports equated to 12 percent of production when including both muscle cuts and variety meat and 9 percent for muscle cuts only. This compares to 12.9 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in February 2011. Export value equated to $208.05 per head of fed slaughter, up 14 percent from last year’s $182.12.

Beef exports to Russia are expected to benefit from a higher muscle cut tariff rate quota (TRQ) in 2012, as the TRQ was increased from 41,700 mt in 2011 to 60,000 mt this year. January-February exports to Russia were up 58 percent in volume to 9,297 mt and tripled in value to $38.2 million. The pace was even hotter when including only muscle cuts, which increased 131 percent in volume at 5,746 mt and 238 percent in value at $29.9 million.

Egypt led strong results for U.S. beef in the Middle East, with exports to the region increasing 13 percent in volume at 23,507 mt and 19 percent in value for $53.3 million. Volumes were lower for the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, but both destinations still achieved substantial increases in value.

Led by strong results in Chile, Peru and Guatemala, exports to the Central and South America region increased 63 percent in volume at 5,651 mt and 91 percent in value for $21.8 million.

“Export growth in these markets is reflective of a very successful effort to expand the global footprint of U.S. beef,” Seng said. “At one time, these markets were only a small factor in our global results, and buyers were exclusively interested in variety meat. But the U.S. industry has made great strides in marketing beef muscle cuts, many of which are underutilized domestically.”

Other beef export highlights for the first two months of 2012 include:

  • Mexico was the leading destination in terms of both volume at 38,070 mt and a value of $170.6 million. This represents a decrease in volume of 6 percent, but a 13 percent increase in value.
  • Exports to Canada, which was the only $1 billion market for U.S. beef in 2011, slipped 3 percent in volume at 24,072 mt but increased 11 percent in value for $136.9 million.

Exports to Japan, which are still limited to beef from cattle 20 months of age or younger, were down 5 percent in volume at 19,344 mt but increased 16 percent in value ($123.6 million).

Having set a blistering pace in early 2011, beef exports through February to Korea were down 19 percent in volume at 22,850 mt and 15 percent in value for $102 million. Conversely, exports to Taiwan were very slow in the early months of 2011 because of an unsteady regulatory environment. Taiwan’s results for this year show an increase of 26 percent in volume (4,938 mt) and 30 percent in value ($30.7 million), but market conditions remain very fragile and March results will likely be lower. Exports to Indonesia have been dramatically reduced due to smaller import quotas, which contributed to a decline in exports to the ASEAN region of 15 percent in volume of 9,938 mt and 5 percent in value at $39.2 million.

Value per head, percentage of total production very strong for U.S. pork

February pork exports equated to 27.7 percent of total production when including both muscle cuts and variety meat, 24 percent for muscle cuts only. This compares to 27 percent and 22 percent, respectively, in February 2011. Export value equated to $58.17 per hog slaughtered, up 14 percent from last year’s figure of $51.06.

Exports to Mexico, the largest volume market for U.S. pork, were lower than the record tonnage recorded in December and January but still outpaced last February’s results in both volume and value. For the year, exports to Mexico were up dramatically compared to the first two months of 2011 – increasing 20 percent in volume of 113,424 mt and 24 percent in value at $208 million.

Japan remains the value pacesetter for U.S. pork, as February exports were steady in volume with last year but still achieved an increase of 17 percent in value. Through February, 2012 exports to Japan were 8 percent higher than a year ago in volume of 80,316 mt and 22 percent higher in value of $342 million.

“It takes a strong effort at every level to keep these mainstay markets performing at such a strong pace,” Seng explained. “The retail, foodservice and processing sectors are all critically important to the U.S. industry’s ability to remain the leading supplier to both Japan and Mexico, and USMEF continues to target them aggressively. We also are very focused on the branded market in Japan, which offers fertile ground for expanding sales of U.S. pork.”

Other pork export highlights for the first two months of 2012 include:

Exports to China/Hong Kong were 39 percent higher in volume of 78,193 mt and nearly doubled in value at $158.2 million, up 94 percent. February volume, however, was the smallest since June 2011.

Exports to Canada increased 36 percent in volume at 36,484 mt and 45 percent in value for $129.9 million.

While lower tariff rates prescribed in the Korea-U.S. FTA did not take effect until mid-March, exports to South Korea increased 11 percent in volume at 36,399 mt and 28 percent in value at $104 million.

Exports to Australia were one-third higher in both volume at 12,423 mt and value for $38.9 million.

Led by strong demand in Chile and Colombia, exports to the Central and South America region increased 18 percent in volume at 13,091 mt and 23 percent in value for $34.8 million.

Destinations where export volume was lower for the year included Taiwan, which was steady in value at $10.4 million, but down 19 percent in volume to 4,693 mt. The controversy over ractopamine residues has created an uncertain business climate and lowered imports from all sources. Regulatory issues in the Philippines and Singapore held back exports to the ASEAN region, where export value of$18.3 million still achieved a small increase despite an 18 percent decline in volume at 7,169 mt.

Lamb muscle cut exports higher, variety meats sluggish

U.S. lamb exports through the first two months of the year were down 10 percent in volume at 2,362 mt and 4 percent in value for $3.8 million. However this was primarily due to a soft market for lamb variety meat exports, which were down 21 percent and 15 percent respectively. Lamb muscle cuts were up 6 percent in volume at 1,162 mt and 4 percent in value for $2.5 million, driven by strong results in the Caribbean and Canada.

Complete export results for U.S. pork, beef and lamb are available online.