U.S. pork and beef exports maintained their strong momentum in May, with export volumes for both products exceeding last year's totals and value increasing by double digits, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
May pork exports totaled 188,030 metric tons, up 4% from a year ago. Export value remained in the $600 million range for the third consecutive month, increasing 19% to $599.6 million.
For January through May, pork export volume (964,631 mt) was 9% ahead of last year's pace, while export value was up 15% to $2.84 billion.
Beef exports in May were up 5% in volume (102,967 mt) and 15% in value ($589 million). For the first five months of 2014, export volume was up 9% to 479,344 mt and value increased 17% to $2.64 billion.
Mexico continued its outstanding performance for U.S. pork in May, posting the largest monthly volume since January and an all-time value record of $138.8 million. For January through May, exports were up 14% in volume and 39% in value.
"USMEF has been focused for some time on increasing overall pork consumption in Mexico, and it is gratifying to see those efforts paying off in the form of very strong, sustained demand," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "With Mexico experiencing a domestic supply crunch and its hog prices up about 35% year-over-year, we have substantially increased shipments to Mexico even as U.S. pork prices moved higher."
Pork exports to South Korea continued well ahead of last year's pace, as high domestic pork prices helped fuel imports. May export value was up nearly 75% to $40.7 million. The five-month total for Korea was 32% higher in volume and increased 46% in value.
Pork muscle cut exports to Japan were up 7% in May, pushing the January-May total to up 1%, valued at $624 million. Japan's hog prices have also surged, reflecting the impact of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and higher-priced imports.
While still down from a year ago, export volume to Canada was the largest of 2014. Value increased 7% to $73.7 million. Meanwhile, exports to Colombia remained very strong, increasing 28% in volume and 59% in value.
China's slumping hog prices and ample domestic supplies led to a weak month for U.S. exports to the China/Hong Kong region, as volume dropped 28% to 24,999 mt and value slipped 30% to $52.6 million. But January-May volume was still within 2% of last year's pace and value was up 2% to $369 million.
Pork export value per head slaughtered was a near-record $69.57 in May, nearly $15 higher than a year ago. The percentage of U.S. production exported was 24% for muscle cuts and 28% when including muscle cuts and variety meat – up from 23% and 26%, respectively, in May 2013.
In mid-June, U.S. beef gained full access to Hong Kong, adding key products such as ground beef and processed meats. But even with some restrictions still in place, May exports to Hong Kong surged more than 80% from a year ago to 13,008 mt. On a value basis, exports more than doubled to $95.2 million.
"We're pleased to finally have full access to Hong Kong, which is something the U.S. beef industry has been pursuing for some time," Seng said. "But this market has already performed exceptionally well, especially since we gained access for bone-in cuts early last year. That step has helped us achieve outstanding growth in Hong Kong's foodservice sector."
Exports to Mexico increased 35% to 20,480 mt, the largest monthly total of the year, while value increased 52% to $93.5 million. This pushed the January-May total to 96,281 mt ( up 34%), valued at $452.5 million ( up 49%).
Strong momentum continued for exports to Korea, which increased 26% in volume and 48% in value. Korea's five-month value total was nearly one-third higher than a year ago as retail outlets and restaurants have shown renewed interest in featuring U.S. beef.
Exports to Taiwan continued to bounce back from a slow first quarter, increasing 25% in volumeand 16% in value. Demand for chilled U.S. beef remains strong in Taiwan, even as frozen exports face increased competition from Australia (due to large, drought-induced supplies) and New Zealand (which has a new free trade agreement with Taiwan).
Japan's results slowed from a year ago, but this was in comparison to very large totals from May 2013. For the first five months of the year, exports to Japan are fairly steady with last year's strong pace in both volume and value.
Beef export value per head of fed slaughter set another new record in May at $279.39, up $47.72 from a year ago. The ratio of U.S. production exported was 11% for muscle cuts and 14% for muscle cuts and variety meat combined – up from 10% and 13%, respectively, from a year ago.