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Pork Exports Maintain Hot Pace; Beef Ahead Slightly

14 March 2012

US - U.S. red meat exports have a tough act to follow after a record-setting year in 2011, but the early indications for 2012 are good.

January pork exports jumped 28 per cent in volume and 43 per cent in value while beef exports were even in volume but rose 14 per cent in value, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

“There is a challenge to follow a very successful year like 2011 and sustain the momentum,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “The good news is that there are opportunities to expand the presence of US red meat by exploring new market niches as well as increasing access with several key trading partners.”

Several key measurements also showed continued growth: export value per head and per centage of total production exported. For pork, January’s export value equated to $59.44 per head of commercial slaughter compared to $43.59 a year ago, and 29.6 per cent of total production (including variety meat) was exported in January versus 24.2 per cent last year. For just muscle cuts, 25 per cent of production was exported this January compared to 20 per cent last year.

Beef exports equated to $197.95 per head of fed slaughter in value compared to $170.10 last year. The per centage of production exported – 12.3 per cent for beef and variety meats and 9 per cent for just muscle cuts – remained the same.

Pork exports up to key targets

Sales jumped in double or triple figures with the top key pork trading partners, surging 21 per cent and 27 per cent respectively in volume and value to Mexico; 88 per cent and 158 per cent to China; and 17 per cent and 28 per cent to Japan.

For the month, the US exported 211,457 metric tons of pork valued at $566.9 million, increases of 28 per cent in volume and 43 per cent in value. While it’s early in the year, it is encouraging that these increases are coming on the heels of a year that saw 2011 pork exports top 2.25 million metric tons valued at more than $6.1 billion.

“In some markets, such as Japan, we are reaching into new secondary markets and niches like the sozai (deli) segment,” said Mr Seng. “In others, like South Korea, we’re focused on sustaining the progress we made last year and preparing for the imminent implementation of the Korea-US FTA. Korea has made significant progress in rebuilding their hog inventories so we expect total imports to decrease this year but the US will also gain a competitive edge against other suppliers through the FTA.”

Top pork export markets in January were:

  • Mexico: 60,737 metric tons (up 21 per cent) valued at $110.3 million (up 27 per cent)
  • Japan: 41,697 metric tons (up 17 per cent) valued at $170.8 million (up 28 per cent)
  • China: 36,175 metric tons (up 88 per cent) valued at $75.1 million (up 158 per cent)
  • Canada: 19,167 metric tons (up 47 per cent) valued at $65.7 million (up 52 per cent)
  • South Korea: 18,173 metric tons (up 38 per cent) valued at $51.5 million (up 61 per cent)

Beef exports maintain record pace

After a record-setting 2011 that saw the US export nearly 1.3 million metric tons of beef valued at more than $5.4 billion, the industry maintained the pace in January with equal export volumes (89,454 metric tons) while value jumped 14 per cent to $405.9 million.

“Market diversification remains a key for beef in 2012,” said Mr Seng. “We’re aggressively pursuing new opportunities in the Middle East, which has grown to be the No. 2 volume market. The Central/South America region (Chile, Peru and Guatemala) is another where the growth (73 per cent in volume and 79 per cent in value in January) justifies our intensified focus on the retail, food service and processing sectors there.”

Russia is another market where USMEF has focused its efforts with offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg. An expanded tariff rate quota (TRQ) there – up to 60,000 metric tons from 41,700 last year – creates new opportunities for US beef. American beef muscle cut exports to Russia in January jumped 84 per cent to 2,129 metric tons.

In addition, Mr Seng noted that the US beef industry remains optimistic that Japan will expand access for its products during 2012. Currently, the US only can export to Japan beef from animals under 21 months of age, severely limiting opportunities in a country that was the No. 1 beef export market in 2003 prior to BSE.

Top beef export markets in January were:

  • Mexico: 19,850 metric tons (down 2 per cent) valued at $87.1 million (up 16 per cent)
  • Middle East: 13,047 metric tons (up 12 per cent) valued at $29 million (up 14 per cent)
  • Canada: 12,582 metric tons (down 3 per cent) valued at $72.7 million (up 15 per cent)
  • South Korea: 11,697 metric tons (down 2 per cent) valued at $51.9 million (up 6 per cent)
  • Japan: 9,688 metric tons (up 2 per cent) valued at $59.6 million (up 26 per cent)

Lamb exports edge up

The positive news continued for US lamb exports as well in January. Top destination Mexico (accounting for 74.5 per cent of total lamb exports by volume and 54.6 per cent by value) raised its purchases 31 per cent in volume to 1,021 metric tons and 25 per cent in value to $1.1 million.

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