Beef exports continued an upward trend in October while pork exports returned a strong performance, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Though pork exports have not topped record 2012 levels, October exports were the largest of the year on a value basis at $539.9 million and second-largest on volume at 186,637 metric tons.
Beef markets in Japan, Hong Kong and Mexico are booming. Overall, October U.S. beef exports reached 107,471 metric tons valued at $564.5 million, increases of 6 and nearly 14%, respectively.
Both the ASEAN and the Central and South America region recorded double-digit increases, as they have all year, but other key markets trailed 2012's historic highs.
"The ebbs and flows of export markets require us to make continual adjustments," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "For example, Japan remains the United States' top value market for pork exports, but relentless competition from other international suppliers is making it tougher for us to maintain our market share."
Seng also noted while the U.S. Congress continues to debate budget cuts that could affect spending on programs like the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program that support U.S. agricultural exports, the European Commission has proposed more than tripling its spending to support EU agricultural and agri-food sector products.
"There is no question that exports create jobs and support a positive balance of trade," said Seng. "The European Commission sees that link and is looking to put significantly more resources into their export initiative, so we can expect to face even heavier competition in the top value markets going forward."
Increased exports to leading markets Japan and Mexico – along with sharp increases in sales to Hong Kong – continue to drive U.S. beef sales to higher levels, USMEF said. Exports for the year are expected to easily top 2012's record value of $5.51 billion.
Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $251.06 in October, up $29 from last year. Exports accounted for 11% of muscle cuts and 13.5% of total beef exports (muscle cuts plus variety meat) for the month, up from 10 and 12.6%, respectively, last year.
Top markets include Japan (up 40% in volume), Mexico (up 53% in volume), South Korea, and Central/South America.
Exports to Hong Kong were up a whopping 148% in volume and 184% in value.
"Hong Kong is clearly emerging as a major beef market, and USMEF's initiatives there cover retail, food service and trade sectors in this highly competitive and progressive market," said Seng. "We are the second-largest supplier to Hong Kong, trailing only Brazil, but we are continuing to miss out on even larger opportunities in mainland China, where we have not had access since 2003."
Top pork markets
U.S. pork export value in October averaged $51.79 per head, down 7% from last year. Exports accounted for 20% of pork muscle cuts and nearly 24% of total pork production, compared to 23 and 27.4% last year.
October sales to the top value market, Japan, slipped nearly 8% in value in October, while Mexico, the leading volume market for U.S. pork, dipped 2% in volume.
Other regions were down on volume, including: China/Hong Kong (down nearly 6%), Canada (down 7%), and South Korea (down 60%).
Top markets included Central/South America (up more than 23%), and ASEAN (up more than 17%).
Lamb exports in October were down to top market Mexico, but increased for next-largest markets Canada and the Caribbean. For the month they equaled 855 metric tons, down 36.5%, while the value of exports dipped 11.7% to nearly $2.2 million.
For the year, lamb exports remain up 7% in value at $23.6 million on 7% lower volumes.