USA, Wahington. Strong March results capped an excellent first quarter for US red meat exports, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
The pork export value reached the second-highest level on record. The US is exporting a strong share of its pork production at higher prices.
March pork export volume was steady with last year at 227,363 t, while value increased 4% to $610.4 mill. – trailing only the November 2017 record of $615.8 mill. For the January-March quarter, volume increased 1% year-over-year to 636,297 t, while value was up 8% to $1.7 bn.
Exports accounted for 27.5% of total pork production in March, down from 28% a year ago, while the percentage of muscle cuts exported increased slightly to 23.5%. First-quarter exports followed a similar pattern, accounting for 26.6% of total production (down from 27% a year ago) and 23% for muscle cuts only (up from 22.6%).
March pork export value averaged $56.91 per head slaughtered, up 4% from a year ago, while the January-March average increased 5% to $54.81.
March pork exports to leading volume destination Mexico were below last year’s level in volume (66,136 t, down 4%) and value ($120.3 mill., down 5%). For the first quarter, exports were down just 1% from last year’s record pace in volume (203,656 t) and were steady in value at $371.3 mill.
Exports to Japan, the leading value market for US pork, followed similar trends as March exports slowed 10% in volume (33,969 t) and 11% in value ($138.6 mill.). But for January through March, exports to Japan were steady in volume at 101,435 t and increased 2% in value to $419.7 mill. This included a 5% decline in chilled pork to 53,688 t. Chilled pork value was down slightly at $258.6 mill.
Other first-quarter highlights for US pork include:
• South Korea’s demand for US pork is booming, as exports climbed 36% from a year ago in volume (69,518 t) and 47% in value ($202 mill.). USMEF is helping to position US pork in all sectors, but Korea’s rising pork consumption is especially evident in sales of home meal replacement items and convenience foods.
• With China’s rising domestic hog production and falling prices cooling demand for imported pork, export volume to China/Hong Kong slowed 15% from a year ago to 111,681 t. However, first-quarter export value still increased 1% to $260.7 mill. China’s additional 25% tariff on imports of US pork, imposed in retaliation for US tariffs on steel and aluminum, took effect 2 April and therefore any trade impact is not reflected in the first-quarter results.
• Strong growth in Colombia pushed exports to South America 22% higher than a year ago in volume (29,126 t) and 24% higher in value ($70.8 mill.). Exports to Chile dipped slightly in volume but were still higher in value year-over year. Argentina officially opened to US pork in April, but shipments have not yet begun as exporters work through regulatory requirements.
• Volumes increased to traditionally reliable markets Honduras and Guatemala, as exports to Central America were up 16% from a year ago in volume (18,605 t) and 22% in value ($45 mill.). The region got an even stronger boost from smaller markets, as exports jumped sharply to Panama, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
• Coming off a record year, demand for US pork in the Dominican Republic continues to gain momentum, with exports increasing 23% in volume (9,578 t) and 25% in value ($21.5 mill.). This pushed first-quarter exports to the Caribbean up 13% (13,439 t) and 16% ($32.5 mill.), respectively.
• Steady growth in the Philippines and sharply higher results in Vietnam and Singapore moved pork exports to the ASEAN region 21% higher in volume (10,634 t) and 32% higher in value ($29.5 mill.).
• Exports to Taiwan, which rebounded last year following a down year in 2016, continued to regain momentum in the first quarter. Exports increased 40% year-over-year in volume (3,603 t) and 45% in value ($9.1 mill.).