October was another strong month for U.S. red meat exports as beef export value continued to soar, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
“USMEF has always prioritized market diversification, and this is more critical than ever now that the red meat industry faces unprecedented transportation challenges and rising input costs,” said President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Exports will likely reach about $18 billion in 2021, which is a remarkable achievement. While global demand is tremendous and we are cautiously optimistic about further growth in 2022, supply chain pressures are not easy to overcome and are a growing concern for exporters and their international customers.”
Broad-based growth puts beef exports on $10 billion pace
Beef exports reached 115,709 metric tons (mt) in October, up 7.5% from a year ago, while export value climbed 48% to $956.9 million – the second-highest total on record, behind August 2021. Through the first 10 months of the year, beef exports totaled 1.19 million mt, up 17% from a year ago. Export value increased 38% to $8.53 billion, surpassing the 2018 record ($8.33 billion) with two months to spare.
U.S. beef exports will top $2 billion this year in each of three key Asian markets – South Korea, Japan and China/Hong Kong. Exports have already surpassed previous annual records in China/Hong Kong and Central America and October exports to Colombia were record-large.
October beef exports to Korea increased 13% from a year ago to 21,934 mt, while value soared 57% to $212.4 million. Through October, exports were also up 13% to 235,260 mt and increased 32% in value to $1.93 billion. This growth included a 50% increase in chilled beef export value ($831 million), with chilled volume up 23% to 71,860 mt, despite ongoing social distancing restrictions impacting the foodservice sector. Restrictions were eased in November but have been largely reinstated since the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Japan remains the leading volume destination for U.S. beef, with October exports up slightly from a year ago to 23,435 mt while value climbed 35% to $198.7 million. Through October, exports were 5% ahead of last year’s pace in volume (269,815 mt) and 19% higher in value ($1.92 billion). Growth to Japan included a 15% increase in chilled beef (to 130,551 mt), valued at $1.13 billion (up 24%) on continued strong retail demand. Japan recently eased many of its COVID-related restrictions on restaurants including resumption of alcohol sales, though restaurant traffic remains significantly impacted by the pandemic.
Beef exports to China continue to capitalize on the market access gains achieved in the Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement, with October exports up nearly 150% from a year ago to 16,815 mt and more than tripling in value to $148.1 million. Through October, exports to China increased more than 500% in volume (154,857 mt) and more than 600% in value ($1.26 billion). As China’s largest supplier of grain-fed beef, the U.S. accounted for 10% of China’s imports on a value basis and 6% of import volume. Exports to the combined China/Hong Kong market have already far exceeded previous annual records, reaching 198,409 mt (up 114% from a year ago) valued at $1.69 billion (up 135%).
Other January-October highlights for U.S. beef exports include:
Although October exports to Mexico were below last year’s volume at 15,841 mt, value still increased 29% to $93.1 million. Through October, shipments to Mexico surpassed last year’s low totals by 14% in volume (163,560 mt) and 39% in value ($861.1 million). Mexico is the largest volume destination for U.S. beef variety meat, with exports increasing 11% to 78,647 mt and posting strong value growth at $211.2 million (up 20%).
Beef exports to Taiwan have edged lower in 2021 at 51,948 mt (down 4%) but are still on a record value pace at $532 million (up 16%). Chilled exports were up 22% to 26,921 mt, valued at $351 million (up 37%). The U.S. continues to dominate Taiwan’s imports of higher-value chilled beef, capturing more than 80% market share.
Led by very strong growth in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama, beef exports to Central America have already surpassed previous annual records, climbing 60% from a year ago to 17,713 mt and surging 90% in value ($107.9 million). Exports to top market Guatemala were 6,551 mt through October, up 42% from a year ago, valued at $49 million (up 80%) and already surpassing the 2019 record. October exports of beef muscle cuts were record-large to Costa Rica and Honduras and the third highest on record to Guatemala.
A strong rebound in Chile and excellent growth in Colombia and Peru drove beef exports to South America 29% above last year’s pace at 25,885 mt, while value climbed 79% to $141.2 million. Colombia’s exports have nearly surpassed the 2019 annual record and October exports were record-large at 1,359 mt.
Beef exports to the Dominican Republic increased 83% from a year ago to 6,375 mt, with value more than doubling to $59.6 million (up 110%). October exports reached a record 1,046 mt.
Beef export value per head of fed slaughter equated to $439.46 in October, up 55% from a year ago. The January-October average was $394.14, up 34%. October exports accounted for 14.3% of total beef production and 12.4% for muscle cuts only, up from 12.7% and 10.8%, respectively, in October 2020. For January through October these ratios were 15% and 12.8%, each up nearly two full percentage points from a year ago.