U.S. pork exports in August slipped 6 percent in volume (175,310 metric tons) compared to year ago levels and were down 7 percent in value ($495.5 million). However, the totals were up 10 percent and 6 percent, respectively, from July’s performance. In total, for the first eight months of the year, 2012 pork exports were up 2 percent in volume (1.474 million metric tons) and 8 percent in value ($4.13 billion) from 2011’s record levels, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

For beef, U.S. exports in August were the second-largest of 2012 at 100,468 metric tons, but it still fell 14 percent short of August 2011 volume. On a value basis, August beef exports totaled $486.2 million-- 5 percent lower than a year ago, but the second-highest monthly total of 2012.

For January through August, U.S. exported 11 percent less beef than a year ago in volume (759,901 metric tons), but that was still 2 percent higher than last year’s record value pace at $3.66 billion.

“We face a challenging business climate in several key markets, with rising production costs and slowing economic growth creating some anxiety among buyers,” points out Philip Seng, USMEF president and chief executive officer. “We’re also seeing a surge in domestic meat supplies in some countries, particularly in South Korea. But the commitment to enhancing global demand for U.S. beef and pork remains very strong, as evidenced by the terrific support of our producer organizations. These are the circumstances in which effective global marketing takes on an even greater level of importance, as producers need to maximize the value of every cut and every carcass.”

On the pork side, exports through August accounted for 23.7 percent of muscle cut production and 27 percent when including variety meats, compared to 22.8 percent and 27.3 percent in 2011. Export value averaged $56.51 per hog slaughtered, up from last year’s $53.54 during the first eight months of the year.

Pork exports continue to perform well in Mexico, with volume from January to August (391,932 metric tons) increasing 14 percent and value ($727.2 million) up 11 percent from a year ago. August exports were up 16 percent in volume to 51,841 metric tons and 9 percent in value to $101.4 million.

“Mexico’s meat processing sector is an outstanding customer for U.S. pork, but USMEF also has made considerable strides in building retail demand,” Seng notes. “This has made Mexico an attractive destination for a wider variety of pork cuts, which has really enhanced our export value.”

Pork exports to Japan slowed during the early summer, but rebounded in August to post the highest volume since February at 39,689 metric tons (valued at $169.9 million). Through August, exports to Japan declined 6 percent in volume (307,442 metric tons) but were 6 percent above last year’s record value pace at $1.34 billion.

While pork exports to the China/Hong Kong region were higher through August (up 11 percent to 282,637 metric tons and up 35 percent to $569.4 million), they are not likely to match last year’s pace in coming months. This is not due to poor market performance, but simply reflects the surge in export activity in late 2011 when China’s domestic pork supplies were slumping and pork prices reached record levels. For August only, exports to China/Hong Kong were down 31 percent in volume to 30,450 metric tons and 34 percent in value to $60.5 million.

Other U.S. pork export market highlights for January through August include:

  • Exports to Canada were up 15 percent in volume (150,583 metric tons) and 18 percent higher in value ($549 million).
  • Led by an exceptional performance in Colombia, exports to Central and South America were 18 percent higher in volume (53,206 metric tons) and up 19 percent in value ($134.1 million).
  • Exports to Russia were 30 percent higher in volume (63,699 metric tons) and 22 percent higher in value ($182.9 million). Since Russia’s WTO accession was completed in August, in-quota exports now enter at zero duty, rather than the previous 15 percent.
  • While exports to the Oceania region were roughly steady with last year, exports to New Zealand were up one-third in volume (5,853 metric tons) and 30 percent in value ($17.7 million).

Complete export results for pork, beef and lamb are available online.