The lingering global economic slump and low prices for domestic pork and beef products in key export markets contributed to declines in both U.S. pork and beef exports in June. Meanwhile lamb exports continue to enjoy a strong year, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Through the first six months of the year, 2009 is still shaping up as the second-best year for U.S. pork exports, but it remains 9 percent below 2008 in terms of volume and 7 percent in value.  For 2009, the United States has exported 925,339 metric tons (more than 2 billion pounds) of pork and pork variety meat valued at nearly $2.2 billion.

Compared to export totals in June 2008 – the second-highest single month totals in history – combined pork and pork variety meat exports were down 31 percent in June 2009, totaling 133,594 metric tons (294.5 million pounds) valued at $320.4 million.

“The (Type A) H1N1 influenza virus has been an important factor for U.S. pork exports,” said Jon Caspers, USMEF chairman and a pork producer from Swaledale, Iowa.   “We have had market access issues in two of our top six pork export markets (China and Russia), which makes it all the more important to maintain a strong presence in our other key markets.”

To ensure that U.S. meat products maintain a high profile in key markets, USMEF is employing a variety of tactics to support beef and pork exports.

“In challenging economic conditions like these, there is no one silver bullet that will drive exports, so we are looking at a whole spectrum of marketing and education programs that can be tailored to the specific market,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president.    “For example, we are conducting pork cooking competitions at four-star hotels in Japan.  We are training chefs in Cambodia, and providing instruction to meat buyers in Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.”

In the No. 1 market for U.S. pork exports, Mexico, USMEF recently conducted an extensive training program for personnel in the hotel, restaurant and institutional sector to familiarize them with U.S. red meat.  Mexico has rebounded well from its experience with the flu virus, and U.S. pork exports there are up 52 percent in volume to 248,694 metric tons (658.5 million pounds) for the first half of 2009.  The value of those exports is up 37 percent to $369.6 million.  In June of 2009 versus one year ago, pork exports were up 22 percent in volume but slipped 4.3 percent in value as consumers continue to look for more affordable menu options.

The United States’ No. 2 pork market, Japan, also is up for the first half of the year.   Volumes rose 1 percent to 223,290 metric tons (492.3 million pounds) while the value of those exports is up 13 percent to $808 million.  For June, export volumes to Japan dipped 13.5 percent versus a year ago while the value of exports slipped just under 6 percent.

On the flip side, exports to the No. 3 market, the greater China/Hong Kong region, are off just over half for the year, dropping 52 percent in volume (to 121,412 metric tons or 267.7 million pounds) and 54 percent in value to $203.3 million.   Russia, the No. 6 pork export market, has seen volumes drop 35 percent to 60,826 metric tons (134.1 million pounds).  The value of pork exports to Russia is down 37 percent compared to the first half of 2008, reaching $123.9 million.

The story is not the same for exports of pork muscle cuts and variety meat in the first half of 2009 versus 2008: pork variety meat exports are up 27 percent in volume to 245,984 metric tons (542.3 million pounds), and the value of those exports is up 29 percent to $379.2 million.   At the same time, the market for pork muscle cuts is down 18 percent in volume to 679,355 metric tons (nearly 1.5 billion pounds) valued at almost $1.8 billion, a 12 percent decline.

On the beef side, (combined muscle cuts and variety meat) exports have fared slightly better than pork, declining 2 percent in volume and 6 percent in value for the first half of 2009, reaching 435,260 metric tons (959.6 million pounds) valued at almost $1.5 billion.   For the month, beef export volumes slipped 13 percent and the value fell 16 percent.

The success of beef muscle cuts versus variety meat is the opposite of pork: beef muscle cut exports have increased 4 percent over the first half of 2009 to 284,388 metric tons (almost 627 million pounds) valued at $1.2 billion – a 1 percent increase over 2008. For June, beef muscle cuts increased 2.5 percent in volume while the value slipped just over 4 percent.  This was the largest monthly beef muscle cut export volume since last October.

At the same time, U.S. beef variety meat exports are down 12 percent in volume (150,872 metric tons or 332.6 million pounds) for the first six months of 2009 while the value of those exports has slipped 26 percent to $275.8 million.  For the month, exports of beef variety meat were down 40 percent from last June. 

Complete June export statistics for pork, beef and lamb can be found online on USMEF’s statistics page.Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation