US January meat exports up from 2015, but value remains lower: USMEF
January exports of US beef and pork were modestly higher than a year ago, but export value slipped for both products, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Beef exports increased 3% from a year ago to 82,301 tonnes, but value was down 13% to US$438.1 million. Exports to most Asian markets - which were impacted early last year by the West Coast port labor impasse - increased in January, but these gains were largely offset by lower volumes shipped to Western Hemisphere markets and the Middle East.
January exports accounted for 12% of total beef production and 9% for muscle cuts (steady with January 2015). Export value per head of fed slaughter was US$239.88, down 11% from a year ago.
Pork exports increased 4% from a year ago to 167,010 tonnes, but value fell 11% to US$404.7 million. Exports to China were up significantly from last year's low volumes, reflecting recent reinstatement of several US plants and continued strong demand for imported pork in China.
Volumes also increased for Central and South America, the Caribbean and Oceania. January exports accounted for 22% of total pork production and 19% for muscle cuts only (up from 21% and 17%, respectively, last year). Export value per head slaughtered was US$41.53, down 11% from a year ago.
Beef exports shows signs of rebound in Japan; in the meantime, South Korea and Taiwan remain strong
Beef exports to Japan were the largest in six months at 16,762 tonnes, up 21% from a year ago, while export value edged 2% higher to US$93.2 million. Exports to South Korea and Taiwan, which were bright spots for US beef in 2015, were also above year-ago levels.
South Korea took 11,263 tonnes (+59%) valued at US$67.2 million (+17%). Export volume to Taiwan was 2,890 tonnes (+35%) valued at US$24.1 million (+3%). Led by a strong month in the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, exports to the ASEAN region increased 71% in volume (1,638 tonnes) and 9% in value (US$9.7 million). Exports to Hong Kong were up 19% (10,254 tonnes), although value declined 16% (US$58.4 million).
"Although it is encouraging to see beef exports to the Asian markets performing above year-ago levels, these results are a reminder of how disruptive the West Coast situation was for our industry," said USMEF President and CEO, Philip Seng. "While we still face a tariff gap in Japan compared to Australian beef, Australia's recent slowdown in production presents an opportunity to reclaim market share - an opportunity the US industry is pursuing very aggressively. US beef is also capitalising on the tight domestic supplies in Korea, making strides in both the retail and foodservice sectors."
Beef exports to Mexico were severely challenged in recent months by the weakening peso, and January exports were the lowest since May 2013 at 15,247 tonnes (-25%). Export value dropped 35% to US$68.8 million. Exports were also significantly lower to Canada (9,144 tonnes, -11%, valued at US$54.8 million, -26%).
Central and South America were the bright spots in the Western Hemisphere, driven by growth to Chile (913 tonnes, +30%) and Guatemala (404 tonnes, +13%). Exports to Egypt fell 11% in volume to 7,367 tonnes and 23% in value to US$9.9 million.
Pork highlights include China, Honduras, Dominican Republic
US pork exports to China / Hong Kong maintained the stronger pace established in October, with January volume up 84% from a year ago to 32,609 tonnes and value increasing 50% to US$64.2 million.
"Having more pork plants and product eligible for China is absolutely critical," Seng explained. "Last year, China, Korea and Mexico were the major destinations with an increased need for imported pork. The US industry capitalised on two of those situations, but the EU reaped most of the benefits in China. It's important that US pork competes more vigorously in China in 2016."
Led by strong exports to Honduras and Guatemala, January pork exports to Central and South America increased 6% from a year ago in volume (8,970 tonnes) but fell 13% in value (US$20.9 million). Exports to Honduras performed especially well, reaching 1,966 tonnes (+73%) valued at US$3.5 million (+35%). This helped offset lower exports to Colombia.
Following a record year in 2015, pork exports to the Dominican Republic continued to shine in January, increasing 51% in volume (2,210 tonnes) and 26% in value (US$4.5 million).
The recent rebound continued for pork exports to Oceania, with volumes to both Australia and New Zealand up sharply from the low totals posted in January 2015. Exports to the region more than doubled in volume (5,764 tonnes, +105%) and increased 36% in value to US$15.2 million.
January exports slowed to leading markets Mexico and Japan.
Following a record month in December and the fourth consecutive record year for Mexico, January volume was down 7% to 55,042 tonnes, while value fell 24% to US$85.8 million. In leading value destination Japan, volume was down 14% to 29,835 tonnes and value declined 13% to US$113.5 million.
Pork exports to South Korea performed very well in 2015, but slowed in the second half. The trend continued in January, as exports fell 20% in volume (12,192 tonnes) and 41% in value (US$30.5 million).