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Pork Exports Solid Despite Market Access Issues

by 5m Editor
14 July 2011, at 11:49am

US - US pork and beef exports in May exceeded year-ago levels by a considerable margin and kept year-to-date results on a very strong pace, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork exports totaled 181,469 metric tons valued at $481.2 million, an 11 per cent jump in volume and 15 per cent in value over May 2010 levels. Volume was steady with the April 2011 results, while value declined by about one per cent. Year-to-date through May, pork exports were up 16 per cent in volume (916,763 metric tons) and 22 per cent in value ($2.35 billion) over 2010, and results were 11 per cent higher in volume and 26 per cent higher in value than the all-time record pace set in 2008. Exports equated to 28.7 percent of total US production with a per-head value of $56.81 compared to 27.9 per cent and $53.10 per head in May 2010.

May beef exports were 21 per cent higher in volume (109,741 metric tons) and 30 per cent higher in value ($453.9 million) than a year ago. It was the second-strongest month of 2011 in terms of both volume and value, trailing only the all-time record results posted in March. Year-to-date through May, beef exports reached 509,489 metric tons valued at $2.09 billion – surpassing last year's pace by 28 per cent in volume and 44 per cent in value. Exports equated to 14.8 per cent of total US production with a value of $205.07 per head of fed slaughter. This compares to 12.6 per cent and $160.30 per head in May 2010.

North Asian markets remain red hot for US pork

Pork exports continued to post exceptional results in Japan, South Korea and China. Exports to Japan are coming off a record-setting value year in 2010, yet export value through May is up 18 per cent to $790.6 million. Exports to Korea, which has been making concerted efforts to accommodate more imported pork in order to stabilise rising pork prices, have more than doubled in volume (113,565 metric tons, up 168 per cent) and tripled in value ($275.4 million, up 213 per cent) over last year's pace. In fact, exports to Korea have already exceeded the totals achieved in the entire calendar year of 2010. Access to China was limited in the early months of 2010 but this year exports are comparable in volume (99,405 metric tons) to the record pace of 2008, while delivering a value of $152 million.

Pork exports to Mexico had slowed in April but rebounded strongly in May, easily exceeding last year's totals in terms of both volume and value. For the year, Mexico is now just two per cent below last year's record pace in volume (220,130 metric tons) and two per cent higher in value ($408.8 million). Pork shoulder and ham exports to Mexico should gain a further boost in the summer months, based on a 50 per cent reduction in retaliatory duties announced last week as part of the settlement of the US-Mexico trucking dispute.

Other market highlights for US pork include:

  • Exports to Canada continue to perform well, running nine per cent higher in volume (80,335 metric tons) and 12 per cent higher in value ($275.4 million) compared to last year. Canada is this year's fifth-largest volume market for US pork but is essentially even with Korea as the No. 3 value market.
  • The Oceania region has developed into a very solid market for US pork, with exports climbing 16 per cent in volume (31,700 metric tons) and 52 per cent in value ($100.9 million). Australia accounts for most of the export activity in this region, but exports to New Zealand are also expanding.
  • Exports to Chile, which is widely regarded as a growing force in terms of its own global pork exports, nearly tripled in volume to 7,810 metric tons and jumped 156 per cent in value to $17.4 million. Exports to the Central/South America region are up 17 per cent in volume (29.541 metric tons) and 30 per cent in value ($73.3 million).

USMEF President and CEO, Philip Seng, commented: "Our key Asian destinations continue to perform remarkably well for US pork, and we are extremely proud of the groundwork that was laid in these markets over the years. It's only through hard work and careful investment of resources that we have been able to capitalise on some very favourable market conditions in which the need for imported pork is quite high in Japan, Korea and China. Buyers in these countries know the quality and consistency US pork delivers because we have cultivated that reputation and relationship for many, many years."

Mr Seng also noted that increased investment by the National Pork Board of Pork Checkoff dollars for USMEF's pork marketing programmes in South Korea has been an important element in helping to maintain positive momentum for US pork, despite considerable market access challenges.

He added: "Some pork cuts are currently enjoying tariff relief in Korea due to short domestic supplies, and our success there confirms just how much we are held back by tariffs and other trade barriers. We're also pleased to have the retaliatory tariffs in Mexico being phased down, and we look forward to potential tariff reductions in other markets such as Colombia and Panama, through pending free trade agreements. Progress on these issues cannot come soon enough."

Beef exports to Korea cool off but global results extremely strong

After several consecutive months of remarkable results, beef exports to South Korea experienced an expected correction in May. Export volume in May (10,455 metric tons) was about even with last year while export value ($46.6 million) fell by about eight per cent. For the year, however, beef exports to Korea have still more than doubled the 2010 pace in terms of both volume (76,209 metric tons) and value ($330.6 million).

In terms of 2011 beef export value, Japan ($327.5 million) pulled nearly even with Korea for the No. 3 position behind Mexico and Canada. Export value to Japan is running 69 per cent ahead of last year's pace while export volume (59,672 metric tons) is 63 per cent higher. Canada posted its best month of the year by far in May, with a total of 16,899 metric tons valued at more than $95 million. For the year, exports to Canada are up 16 per cent in volume (69,224 metric tons) and 39 per cent in value ($367.3 million).

Other market highlights for US beef include:

  • Mexico remains the leading destination for US beef in terms of both volume (103,808 metric tons) and value ($392.1 million) – increases of eight per cent and 26 per cent, respectively, over 2010.
  • Fuelled by strong growth in Egypt, exports to the Middle East region have increased 44 per cent in volume (64,712 metric tons) and 60 per cent in value ($125.8 million).
  • Despite still being limited to boneless muscle cuts only, exports to Hong Kong have more than doubled last year's pace in terms of both volume (23,078 metric tons) and value ($100.6 million).
  • Strong growth in Peru, Guatemala and Chile pushed exports to the Central/South America region 50 per cent higher in volume (10,398 metric tons) and 80 per cent higher in value ($29.4 million).

In Taiwan, where a dispute over ractopamine residues has impeded growth of US beef exports, May volume (13,399 metric tons) was down five per cent compared to last year while export value was up slightly to $73.3 million.

Mr Seng explained: "We continue to overcome market access challenges in many key markets and achieve strong growth in US beef exports. But whether it's the 20-month age limit in Japan, product restrictions in Hong Kong and Mexico, the impasse over residues in Taiwan or the total lack of access to China – we simply have to stop leaving money on the table. Our export success in spite of those barriers tells me that the partnerships we are fortifying and the image campaigns we are conducting are working, yet I know these totals could be soaring even higher with better market access."

As for the slower results in Korea, Mr Seng was not alarmed.

He said: "USMEF is still quite bullish on Korea as demand for US beef is very strong. We were exporting beef to Korea at such a strong pace that it was not really sustainable, so we anticipated a correction based on importer inventories. However, we are working closely with importers, retailers and food service outlets to ensure a strong performance in the second half of the year."

Lamb exports climbing higher after slow start in 2011

After getting off to a sluggish start this year, US lamb exports continued to gain strength in May. Led by Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean, May exports nearly tripled last year's total in terms of volume (1,813 metric tons) and jumped about 150 per cent in value ($2.8 million). For the year, exports totalled 7,925 metric tons valued at $12.7 million – increases of 58 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively, over the first five months of 2010.