April exports of U.S. pork were up slightly in volume (183,618 metric tons) from a year ago and 4% higher in value ($509 million), keeping 2012 exports ahead of 2011's record pace. Through the first four months of the year, pork exports stand 6% higher than last year in volume (781,676 metric tons) and 16% higher in value ($2.17 billion), according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
On a per-head-slaughtered basis, April pork exports equated to $57.69 – down slightly from the first quarter of this year but still more than a dollar higher than in April 2011. For the first four months of this year, exports equated to $58.84 per head.
April exports of pork muscle cuts equated to 24% of production, 27.7%when including both muscle cuts and variety meat. These ratios were roughly the same as April 2011 and slightly lower than the first quarter of this year.
Individual market highlights for U.S. pork included:
- Though April was the slowest month this year for exports to Mexico, volume was up 30% over April 2011 and value was 18% higher. Through April, 2012 exports to Mexico were up 19% in volume (207,095 metric tons) and 18% in value ($377.4 million) over last year's record pace.
- April exports to the China/Hong Kong region were the second-largest so far this year, pushing results for the first four months of the year one-third higher in volume (154,884 metric tons) and 84% higher in value ($312.8 million) than the same period in 2011. However, exports to this region have slowed considerably from the peak volumes shipped in the final months of last year.
- January-April exports to Japan were down slightly in volume (161,933 metric tons) from last year but were 14% ahead of 2011's record value pace at just under $700 million.
- Composed almost completely of muscle cuts, April exports to Russia were the strongest in more than six months. This pushed Russia's 2012 results 20% higher in volume (25,903 metric tons) and 28% higher in value ($78.7 million) than a year ago.
The recovery of South Korea's swine herd from the 2010-2011 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak has caused U.S. exports to slow from last year's record pace. Through April, exports to Korea were down 31% in volume (67,061 metric tons) and 20% in value ($192.7 million) from a year ago. For perspective, however, it is important to note that other than 2011, these results still outpace any other year's exports to Korea by a wide margin and were nearly double the volume shipped in the first four months of 2010.
"Considering the recovery of domestic supplies in markets such as Korea and China, pork exports have performed remarkably well through the first four months of the year," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng.
"Despite fierce competition in Japan, we have increased our market share further this year and nearly topped $700 million in value. USMEF marketing efforts are also contributing to growth in the Western Hemisphere markets - especially in the processing and retail sectors - with Mexico leading the way. Even in our Latin American markets that are quite price-sensitive, U.S. pork is appealing to more customers than ever before," he said.