U.S. beef exports set volume and value records in May, topping $1 billion for the fourth time this year, according to info from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
While pork exports were well below last year’s large totals, shipments were the largest of 2022 in volume and value. May beef exports reached 135,006 metric tons, up 1% from the previous high posted in May 2021. Export value climbed 20% to $1.09 billion, breaking the March 2022 record. For January through May, beef exports increased 4% from a year ago to 613,266 metric tons valued at $5.14 billion. Values rose 34%.
“For U.S. beef exports to maintain a $1 billion-per-month pace is tremendous under any circumstances, but it is especially remarkable given the strong U.S. dollar, continued shipping and logistical challenges and the economic uncertainty our industry and international customers face today,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Across a wide range of markets, the momentum for retail beef sales achieved during the pandemic continues, and it’s now complemented by a strong rebound in the foodservice sector. May volume was actually down slightly to both Japan and South Korea, and yet exports still set a new record. That’s a great indication of soaring, broad-based demand for U.S. beef.”
Derrell Peel, livestock marketing analyst at Oklahoma State University, forecasts that total beef exports for the year may equal last year or dip slightly. He said the strong U.S. dollar may provide headwinds for beef exports.
Peel reported the six major markets for beef exports volume thus far in 2022 are Korea at 23.6%, Japan with 22.6%, China/Hong Kong at 20%, Canada and Mexican with 7.6% each, and Taiwan with 6.6%. The top six markets account for 87.1% of total beef exports so far this year.
USMEF reports last year exports exceeded $2 billion to each of the three top destinations for U.S. beef: South Korea, Japan and China/Hong Kong. Export value to all three is up in 2022, with each topping $1 billion in just five months. Peel said the smaller export markets that comprise the remaining 12.9% of beef exports include Central America, South America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia.
“Beef exports are a component of the total demand for the many different beef products that are produced by the beef industry. Most beef exports are specific sets of products for specific markets. The impacts on specific beef product markets change as exports grow and evolve and this, in turn, has variable impacts on domestic markets for beef products,” Peel said.
He said beef imports improve domestic beef markets by providing a destination for products that would otherwise detract from domestic beef demand.
U.S. export volume of pork was down 21% in May compared to a year-ago, and the total value fell 24% year-over-year. However, valued at $655.1 million, pork exports were the highest since November of last year. Through May, pork exports were down 20% from a year ago to 1.07 million metric tons valued at just under $3 billion, down 18%.
“On the pork side, exports are still trailing the enormous totals from the first half of last year, but we’re seeing upward momentum in several markets,” Halstrom said, “Shipments to Mexico are on a record pace and demand is strong across most of the Western Hemisphere. China’s hog prices have increased about 40% since mid-June, which supports our forecast for some rebound in China’s demand for imported pork toward the end of the year. Even when China pulls larger volumes from other suppliers, this has a positive impact for U.S. pork in a number of international markets.”
USMEF reports pork exports to Mexico totaled 79,849 metric tons, up 12% year-over-year. Pork export value climbed 13% to $171.2 million. Through May, exports to Mexico increased 22% to 396,934 metric tons valued at $715.1 million, up 12%.
Halstrom said to combat inflation, Mexico recently suspended import duties on pork muscle cuts for one year. While this move could attract more products from the European Union, the U.S. industry’s other main competitors – Canadian and Chilean pork – already had duty-free access under existing trade agreements.