U.S. beef and pork muscle cut exports performed well in March, concluding the first quarter of 2010 with increasing momentum. A sluggish global market for variety meat held down the overall totals, but muscle cut export value for both products are running ahead of their 2009 pace.
Beef muscle cuts are off to a particularly strong start in 2010, increasing 22 percent in volume to 156,947 metric tons (346 million pounds) for the quarter. The increase in value was even higher, up 24 percent to $678 million. The combined beef/beef variety meat totals are also impressive, rising 11 percent in volume (to 225,122 metric tons or 496.3 million pounds) and 14 percent in value (to $788.5 million). Total beef exports accounted for 10.6 percent of overall production in March compared to 9.4 percent in March 2009. Export value per steer and heifer slaughtered equated to $127.40, compared to $110.67 last year.
Pork muscle cut exports pulled ahead of their 2009 pace by 1 percent in volume (356,297 metric tons or 785.5 million pounds) and 2 percent in value ($941.9 million). Combined pork/pork variety meat totals are slightly behind last year in both volume (468,793 metric tons or 1 billion pounds) and value ($1.11 billion).
On a positive note, the value of total pork exports in March edged up 1 percent compared to March 2009, and it was 18 percent ahead of the value of pork exports in March 2008, a record-setting year for U.S. pork exports.
Pork exports accounted for 22.5 percent of total production compared to 25 percent in March 2009, but muscle cut exports accounted for 19 percent of production, the same as one year ago. Per-head pork export value equated to $39.80 – which is down about $1 from March 2009.
The results for both beef and pork exports were achieved despite significant declines in each of their leading value markets. Beef exports to Mexico continue to struggle due to weakness in Mexico’s economy.
Though beef muscle cut exports managed to pull within 7 percent in volume and 10 percent in value of their 2009 pace, variety meat exports to Mexico are still down dramatically.
Pork exports to Japan – which exceeded $1.5 billion in each of the last two calendar years – have slowed due to unusually high inventories of domestic pork. Muscle cut exports to Japan are within 13 percent in volume and 11 percent in value of last year’s pace. But while variety meat makes up only a small portion of the U.S. pork shipped to Japan, those exports are down 62 percent in volume and 46 percent in value.
Beef exports booming overseas, but still struggling in Mexico
With the exception of Mexico, U.S. beef exports are surging in nearly all key global markets. Asian markets are performing well across the board, with excellent gains also posted in Canada, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Europe, and explosive growth achieved in Russia.
Canada solidified its position as the No. 2 volume and value market for U.S. beef, with first quarter beef/beef variety meat totals reaching 32,045 metric tons 70.6 million pounds) valued at $139.4 million. This is an increase of 14 percent in volume and 19 percent in value over 2009.
Japan is the No. 3 value market at $95.3 million – up by 33 percent over the first quarter of last year. In terms of volume, Japan is up 37 percent to 18,487 metric tons (40.8 million pounds). While the United States and
Japan recently undertook a new round of discussions on market access for U.S. beef, these gains were achieved despite Japan’s restriction of U.S. imports to beef from cattle 20 months of age or younger.
South Korea surpassed Japan slightly in terms of first-quarter volume (18,763 metric tons or 41.4 million pounds) and is the No. 4 value market at $78.2 million. This is an impressive increase of 11 percent in volume and 24 percent in value over 2009, but recent Korean import data tell an even more positive story. These data show imports of U.S. beef/beef variety meat increasing 66 percent in the first quarter, with the United States accounting for more than 30 percent of Korea’s beef imports. Korea’s April data show an 80 percent increase in imports of U.S. beef.
Weekly U.S. export data compiled in April suggest that Korea is currently the second-largest market for U.S. beef muscle cuts, trailing only Mexico.
Other first-quarter beef highlights include:
The recent addition of bone-in beef cuts has helped bolster exports to Taiwan, which gained 85 percent in volume (8,488 metric tons or 18.7 million pounds) and nearly doubled in value to $45 million. While the expansion of eligible products generated some negative local publicity, USMEF worked very closely with importers and end-users of U.S. beef to reassure them about product safety and quality. As a result of these ground-level efforts, consumer response has been positive and beef exports continue to gain significant momentum in Taiwan.
Despite exports to Vietnam being about equal to 2009, the ASEAN region continued to show a strong increase in demand for U.S. beef. Led by outstanding growth in the Philippines and Indonesia, beef/beef variety meat exports to the region are up 12 percent in volume (21,936 metric tons or 48.4 million pounds) and 11 percent in value (to $71.2 million).
Beef/beef variety meat exports to Hong Kong more than tripled in both volume (7,613 metric tons or 16.8 million pounds) and value ($28.8 million).
The Middle East continued its growth as a major destination for U.S. beef, gaining 37 percent in volume (to 25,963 metric tons or 57.2 million pounds) and 51 percent in value (to $43.9 million). The increase in muscle cut volume (158 percent) and value (72 percent) were even more impressive. While the region has long been a mainstay market for U.S. beef variety meat, muscle cuts continue to make up a higher percentage of exports to the Middle East.
Russia, which almost exclusively purchased beef livers in 2009, is now importing U.S. beef muscle cuts at a pace not seen since mid-2008. This resurgence is reflected in Russia’s combined beef/beef variety meat totals, which more than doubled over last year (to 12,855 metric tons or 28.3 million pounds) and increased by more than 400 percent in value to $28.9 million.
Impressive gains were also posted in the Dominican Republic, which was up 130 percent in volume and 108 percent in value. The rest of the Caribbean region increased substantially as well, up 30 percent in both volume and value. The European Union (up 37 percent in volume and 80 percent in value) and Central and South America (up 39 percent in volume and 44 percent in value) also gained significant ground over 2009.
These results left Mexico as the only major beef market trailing last year’s pace, but even this decline is largely attributable to variety meat. Variety meat exports to Mexico are down 44 percent in volume and more than 60 percent in value, while muscle cuts are down 7 percent and 10 percent respectively. Despite this decline, Mexico remained the largest destination for U.S. beef/beef variety meat at 58,156 metric tons (128.2 million pounds) valued at $184.7 million.
“As a beef producer, I can’t help but be extremely excited about these global results,” said USMEF Chairman Jim Peterson, a rancher from Buffalo, Mont. “We’re confident that U.S. beef will rebound in Mexico when economic conditions improve. And when that happens, U.S. beef is well-positioned for a remarkable performance in 2010.”
US pork exports post solid gains in several markets, but remain slower to Japan
While lower purchasing power in Mexico has created a struggle for U.S. beef, pork exports to Mexico continue to surge. In the first quarter, pork/pork variety meat exports to Mexico topped 100,000 metric tons (220.5 million pounds) valued at nearly $195 million. This was an increase of 24 percent in volume and 45 percent in value over last year.
“The growth we have achieved for U.S. pork in Mexico is just terrific,” Peterson said. “About this time last year, we were facing the A-H1N1 crisis and pork demand in Mexico looked like it might be in serious jeopardy. But we worked very hard to educate consumers and the trade there to keep the market open and maintain consumer confidence in our product. As a result, Mexico is now our leading volume market for U.S. pork. And now that prices are improving we’re seeing sustained buying at higher prices, which gives us impressive gains in export value.”
The growth of U.S. pork in Mexico has helped offset this year’s declines in four key markets – Japan, South Korea, Russia and China. The results in Japan and Korea are largely attributable to a spike in domestic pork production, while market access has been a major issue in both Russia and China.
Access to Russia is improving, with excellent progress being made in reinstating U.S. plants that were ineligible for export to Russia in late 2009 and early 2010. Most exports from these plants, however, are not reflected in the first quarter data. Despite an agreement between the United States and China for resumption of U.S. pork exports, no U.S. product has yet entered the country in 2010 as final details regarding import certificates are still being resolved.
In contrast to these markets, U.S. pork has posted impressive first-quarter gains in other regions. Highlights include:
Pork/pork variety meat exports to Canada are up 10 percent in volume (to 43,557 metric tons or 96 million pounds) and 19 percent in value (to $141.2 million).
Exports to Hong Kong reached 64,417 metric tons (142 million pounds) valued at $89.6 million. This is an increase of 52 percent in volume and 34 percent in value over last year.
The ASEAN region increased its imports of U.S. pork/pork variety meat by 51 percent, reaching 19,385 metric tons (42.7 million pounds). Value increased by 57 percent, reaching $43.7 million. The region was led by particularly strong gains in the Philippines and Singapore, while exports to Vietnam declined significantly.
Exports to Taiwan surged by 43 percent in volume (to 7,943 metric tons or 17.5 million pounds) and 53 percent in value (to $15.2 million).
U.S. pork’s strong momentum in Mexico has also extended to other Western Hemisphere markets. Exports to Central and South America increased 22 percent in volume (to 15,254 metric tons or 33.6 million pounds) and 25 percent in value (to $33.8 million). These results were led by strong increases in export value to Honduras and Guatemala.
Exports to the European Union climbed 69 percent in volume (to 5,493 metric tons or 12.1 million pounds) and 49 percent in value (to $16.4 million).
“Across the globe, we are making strong gains for U.S. pork,” Peterson said. “When our shipments to Russia recover and we regain access to China, those markets will provide some important growth.
“We also expect Japan to work through its high inventories fairly soon, which will improve conditions for U.S. pork,” he said. “We have developed so many channels for U.S. pork in Japan, including hotels, restaurants, institutional, retail and processing, so that market will come back strong. For example, in one three-week campaign USMEF developed recently with Japan’s leading retailer, Aeon, 2.6 million pounds of American pork were sold. Through the ‘Aeon Loves U.S. Pork’ campaign, our relationship with Aeon continues to grow.”
Lamb exports also hindered by slow variety meat demand, lower value
U.S. lamb exports increased by more than 60 percent in volume in the first quarter, but declined by 7 percent in value. Variety meat exports struggled at a pace that was 30 percent below last year in terms of volume and 11 percent lower in value. Among the three primary destinations for U.S. lamb, exports to Mexico are increasing but exports to the Caribbean and Canada are down sharply.
Posted by Russell Nemetz