US November Meat Exports Slip, but Value on Record Pace

Beef and pork export volumes from the United States trended lower in November, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF). However, the cumulative 2014 volume totals were still higher year-over-year, with January-November beef exports up 2% to 1.1 million metric tons (mt). Pork exports were also 2% higher at just under 2 million mt.

With December totals still to be recorded, beef exports already set a new full-year value record of $6.49 billion (up 16% year-over-year). Pork export value through November ($6.13 billion, up 11%) is on pace to break the 2012 record and already exceeds the 2013 year-end total.

November results were mixed for beef exports, with volume down 5% from a year ago to 96,348 mt, while value was 19% higher at $626.7 million. November pork exports were down 13% in volume (168,062 mt) and 6% in value ($519.9 million).

USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng said that while the first 11 months of 2014 reflect a very solid performance for US beef and pork sales abroad, exporters will face heightening economic challenges in leading markets during 2015.

Cooking-class-SFWChildren prepare beef imported from the United States at a USMEF outreach event in Japan. Along with their parents, they learned how to make ribeye steaks served with traditional Japanese seasonings including miso fermented a soybean paste and honey mustard.

“Demand for US beef and pork remains strong, as international buyers appreciate the unmatched quality and consistency of our products,” he said. “But lower slaughter numbers reduced 2014 supplies, which obviously had an impact on prices, and in recent months buying power in many key markets has been affected by slowing economic growth and weaker currencies.”

Seng continued: “Market access restrictions in several important markets, including China and Russia, also had a big impact on opportunities for US exports last year. The outlook for 2015 is for more of the same, but our industry has proven its ability to identify and develop export outlets in difficult times. Looking across the world as a whole, I still see good potential for further expansion of red meat exports in 2015.”

Beef Export Value Hits New High
November beef exports equated to 15% of total production and 12% of muscle cut production, compared to 14% and 11%, respectively, a year ago. For January through November, exports equated to 14% of total production and 11% for muscle cuts (up from 13% and 10%). Export value per head of fed slaughter was $359.77 in November (up 35% from a year ago) and $293.96 for January-November (up 16%).

November exports to leading market Japan were the smallest since March at 18,449 mt – reflecting a seasonal slowdown – but export value ($136.5 million) was still up 35%. January-November exports increased 3% in volume (225,328 mt) and 13% in value ($1.47 billion) as US beef continued to reclaim market share in Japan.

Other January-November beef results include:

  • Exports to Hong Kong surpassed $1 billion for the first time ($1.01 billion, up 39%) on volume of 137,435 mt (up 19%).
  • Strong momentum continued for US beef in South Korea, as exports rose 14% in volume (107,147 mt) and 44% in value ($762.8 million). On a value basis, US market share in Korea climbed from 38% in 2013 to 42% in 2014.
  • Exports to Taiwan rebounded from a slow start in 2014, reaching 30,984 mt (up 6%) valued at a record $264.8 million (up 15%).
  • While exports to Mexico slowed in November, totals were still up 14% in volume (219,712 mt) and 28% in value ($1.05 billion) for the year. As USMEF has pointed out previously, however, data issues from January-May 2013 suggest that year-over-year growth for 2014 is likely overstated.

Pork Exports to Top Markets Slow
November pork exports equated to 25% of total production and 20% of muscle cut production – down from 26% and 22% a year ago. For January through November, exports equated to 27% of total production (up from 25.5%) and 22% for muscle cuts (up from 21%). Export value per head slaughtered was $58.99 in November (up 3% from a year ago) and $63.21 for January-November (up 17%).

Exports to leading volume market Mexico slowed in November (53,433 mt, down 9%), but January-November volume still reached 617,034 mt, up 10% from a year ago. Export value was 2% lower in November ($121.8 million), but still up 31% year-over-year to a record $1.42 billion.

Taiwan-lamb-audit-SFW-425Michigan State University Sheep Farm Manager Alan Culham (far left) provides a Taiwanese audit team with a tour of Hannewald feed lot operation near East Lansing. In 2013 Taiwan imported 15,321 metric tons of lamb and mutton, valued at about $60 million, with the market split fairly evenly between Australia and New Zealand. US lamb continues to be barred from Taiwan and a number of other international markets, due to scrapie-related restrictions imposed back in 2003. Exporters hope to regain access soon.

Pork muscle cut exports to Japan were down 22% in November (25,901 mt) and fell 19% in value ($120.3 million). For January-November, muscle cut exports to Japan were down 6% in volume (354,239 mt) and 2% in value to $1.66 billion. The Japanese market has been greatly impacted by an influx of pork from the European Union, which has been locked out of its top market, Russia, since January 2014. Data from Japan show that pork and pork variety meat imports from the EU increased 42% through November, reflecting lower prices resulting from the impasse with Russia.

Other January-November pork results include:

  • Exports to Korea have already surpassed 2013 year-end totals in both volume (120,724 mt, up 40% from a year ago), and value ($392.3 million, up 64%).
  • Led by Colombia, exports to the Central/South America region remain on a record volume pace (112,101 mt, up 3%) and have already set a new value record of $316.4 million (up 15%). Although exports to Colombia slowed in the fourth quarter, January-November totals were still up 42% in volume (43,716 mt) and 54% in value ($123.8 million).
  • While pork exports to Canada were 9% lower in volume (191,355 mt), export value remained strong at $832.1 million – up 7% year-over-year and approaching the full-year record of $855.7 million set in 2012.

Lamb Exports Lose Momentum
US lamb exports were lower in November, breaking a four-month run of year-over-year increases. January-November exports were down 15% in volume (9,673 mt) and 1% in value ($25.6 million). Exports increased to Mexico, the Caribbean, the United Arab Emirates, Panama and the Philippines, but these results did not fully offset a sharp decline in exports to Canada. Lamb muscle cut exports fared better, achieving a 6% increase in value ($15.7 million) despite a 6% decline in volume (2,621 mt).

Complete January-November export totals for US beef, pork and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics webpage.