USA, Denver. Last year US beef exports shattered the previous value record and achieved a new high for volume, according to year-end 2018 statistics released by USDA and compiled by USMEF. Pork export volume came up just short of the record set in 2017 while value slipped 1% year-over-year.
Fueled by tremendous demand in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the ASEAN region, US beef exports reached 1.35 mill. t, up 7% from 2017 and exceeding the 2011 record by 5%. Export value soared to $8.33 bn., breaking the 2017 record by $1.06 bn. – an increase of 15%. For December only, beef export volume was down slightly from a year ago to 112,777 t, but value still increased 4% to $700.2 million.
Despite significant headwinds, 2018 pork exports reached 2.44 mill. t – just 0.5% below the 2017 record. Pork export value was $6.39 bn., down 1% year-over-year and the third-highest total on record, trailing only 2014 ($6.65 bn.) and 2017 ($6.49 bn.). For December only, pork exports were down 5% from a year ago to 209,780 t, valued at $527.4 mill. (down 11%).
While demand for US beef showed remarkable strength throughout the world in 2018, no market exemplified this momentum more than South Korea. Exports to Korea increased 30% year-over-year in volume to 239,676 t and jumped 43% in value to $1.75 bn. Since KORUS was implemented in 2012, the import duty rate on US beef has declined from 40 to 18.7% and will fall to zero by 2026.
Through May 2018, pork exports to leading volume market Mexico appeared to be headed for a seventh consecutive record, topping the 2017 pace by 6%. But May was the last month in which exports to Mexico would increase year-over-year, due to retaliatory duties imposed in response to US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The decline in value from June through December was 24%, totaling $218 mill., underscoring the large degree to which US producers and exporters bore the cost of Mexico’s 20% retaliatory duty.
Retaliatory duties also impacted pork exports to China/Hong Kong, which fell 29% in volume (351,774 t) and 21% in value ($851.7 mill.) compared to 2017. This included a 30% decline in pork variety meat volume to 225,414 (China/Hong Kong is the largest destination for US pork variety meat).