U.S. pork exports in February were 377 million pounds, more than 10 percent below a year ago. Lower exports were a likely consequence of the high exchange rate value of the U.S. dollar, along with labor issues at West Coast ports—which have since been resolved—that slowed inbound and outbound flows of cargo.
Although the export picture has been dreary since the beginning of the second half of 2014, there were two important positive aspects of the February trade data: exports to both Mexico and Canada were year-over-year higher in February. This is important because Mexico was the largest foreign destination of exported U.S. pork in 2014, and together, Canada and Mexico accounted for nearly 40 percent of U.S. pork exports last year. Increased February shipments to NAFTA partner countries suggest that U.S. pork prices have fallen to a point that partially offsets the effects of high U.S. dollar exchange rates.
Exports to most Asian countries were lower again in February, due in part to competition from European pork, denominated in low-valued euros, and shipping delays out of West Coast ports. USDA anticipates first-quarter exports of 1.125 billion pounds, more than 16 percent lower than exports a year ago.
The exchange-rate drag is expected to slow second- quarter exports to 1.175 billion pounds, more than 8 percent below a year earlier. Second-half exports are expected to exceed same-period 2014 shipments that were depressed by the PEDv market environment in the United States. U.S. pork exports for 2015 are expected to total 4.75 billion pounds, more than 2 percent below exports last year.