Pork exports highest in two years; beef exports below record large, year-ago totals


July 25, 2023

pork exports increase beef decrease

Led by another outstanding month in Mexico and robust demand for variety meat, exports of U.S. pork continued to gain momentum in May, according to data released by USDA and compiled by USMEF. While well below the record-large volume and value posted in May 2022, beef exports improved from April and were the second largest (behind March) of 2023. 

      May pork exports reached 261,361 metric tons (mt), up 16% from a year ago, the ninth largest on record and the largest since May 2021. Export value climbed 12% to $731.1 million, also the highest since May 2021 and the seventh highest on record. Pork variety meat exports were particularly outstanding in May, setting a value record of $127 million. 

      Through the first five months of the year, pork and pork variety meat exports were 14% above last year’s pace at 1.22 million mt, valued at $3.35 billion (up 13%). 

      “While pork shipments to Mexico are on a remarkable pace, it takes a wide range of markets to achieve double-digit growth,” explained Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO. “Demand is strong throughout the Western Hemisphere and the U.S. industry continues to make gains in Asian markets where supplies of European pork are much tighter than a year ago.”

      “U.S. beef exports face considerable headwinds in 2023, on both the supply and demand side, especially when compared to last year’s massive totals,” Halstrom said. “To address tighter beef supplies, USMEF has heightened efforts to showcase underutilized cuts, even in our well-established markets. It’s also encouraging to see beef variety meat exports maintain a strong pace, as this is essential for maximizing carcass value.”

May beef exports lower overall, but strengthen in North American and Taiwan

      For many major markets, May exports of U.S. beef trended below last year’s record-setting totals. But Mexico was a strong exception, with shipments climbing 9% to 17,254 mt, valued at $94.2 million (up 14%). Through the first five months of the year, exports to Mexico were 13% above last year’s pace at 82,166 mt, with value up 17% to $459.6 million. Mexico is the largest volume destination for U.S. beef variety meat, with exports through May increasing 16% to 42,613 mt. Export value climbed 20% to $120.4 million. 

      While below last year’s large volume, May exports of beef variety meat were the largest in 12 months at 26,961 mt, with value the highest since November at $99.5 million. In addition to Mexico (see above), variety meat exports trended higher to South Korea, South Africa, Hong Kong and Central America. While still below last year, exports to Japan were the largest of 2023 at 4,287 mt. For January through May, beef variety meat exports were 5% below last year at 117,611 mt, while value fell 15% to $448.2 million.

      For the first time in 2023, May beef exports to Taiwan exceeded last year’s volume, climbing 9% to 6,142 mt – the largest since April 2022 and the ninth highest on record. Export value was $59.6 million, down 7% from a year ago but the largest since August. For January through May, exports to Taiwan were down 16% from a year ago to 26,534 mt, valued at $259.8 million (down 31%). 

Other January-May export results for U.S. beef include:

      May beef exports to Canada totaled 11,319 mt, up 17% from a year ago and the largest since December 2021. Export value increased 23% to $95.6 million, the highest in nearly eight years. January-May exports to Canada were down 2% to 41,799 mt, valued at $327.3 million (down 6%). 

      Exports to leading market Korea totaled 23,657 mt in May, down 12% from a year ago, while export value fell 27% to $194.3 million. Through May, exports to Korea were 11% below last year’s record pace at 112,365 mt, valued at $901.4 million (down 30%). 

      January-May beef exports to China/Hong Kong totaled 98,671 mt, down 11% from a year ago, while value declined 16% to $852.2 million. But exports to Hong Kong have strengthened in 2023, bolstered by the gradual, post-COVID rebound in tourism and business travel. Through May, exports to Hong Kong increased 30% to just under 16,000 mt, valued at $162.3 million (up 11%). 

      May beef exports to Japan fell significantly from a year ago, reflecting persistent economic headwinds, the weak yen and Japan’s high tariffs on beef imports. May exports were 19,291 mt, down 33% and the lowest since early 2016. Export value was down 40% to $137.1 million. Through May, exports to Japan were down 15% year-over-year to 108,359 mt, valued at $757.6 million (down 27%). 

      Beef exports to South Africa continued to shine in May, increasing 77% to 1,481 mt, valued at $1.6 million (up 21%). For January through May, exports were 142% above last year at 8,680 mt, with value up 120% to $9.4 million. Exports to South Africa are almost entirely beef variety meat. 

      While beef exports to Central America are trending below last year, demand has strengthened substantially in Honduras. Through May, shipments to Honduras increased 9% year-over-year to 1,256 mt, while value climbed 21% to just under $6 million. 

      Beef export value equated to $399.71 per head of fed slaughter in May, down 21% from a year ago. The January-May average was $391.66, down 19%. Exports accounted for 14.7% of total May beef production and 12.1% for muscle cuts only, down from the exceptionally high ratios (17.2% and 14.6%, respectively) posted in May 2022. The January-May ratios were 14.4% of total production and 12.2% for muscle cuts, each down about one percentage point from the same period last year.    

Southern Livestock

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