April exports of U.S. pork reached the largest monthly volume in more than a year, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) earlier this month.
Pork exports totaled 200,125 metric tons (mt) in April, up 4 percent year-over-year and the largest since March 2014. Export value ($512.1 million) was down 14 percent, reflecting lower pork prices. Through the first four months of 2015, pork exports were down 7 percent in volume (726,102 mt) and 14 percent in value ($1.93 billion) from the same period last year.
“Exports are still recovering from a slow start to the year, but the April results confirm that the U.S. industry is regaining global momentum,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “April was really the first time this year that we saw relief from the West Coast port situation – not that shipping traffic was completely back to normal, but the worst of the congestion was clearly behind us. And despite the U.S. dollar continuing to be very strong relative to the currencies of most key customers and competitors, demand for U.S. meat is holding up well.”
Seng cautioned, however, that the strong dollar leaves the U.S. industry in a vulnerable position when competitors gain tariff advantages in key markets.
Mexico is once again the pacesetter for U.S. pork exports, with January-April volume up 8 percent year-over-year to 237,998 mt. Export value to Mexico slipped 13 percent, however, to $413.6 million, reflecting lower prices for hams, picnics and other key items. Exports to South Korea bucked the global trend by increasing even more in value ($241.8 million, up 45 percent) than in volume (79,401 mt, up 39 percent).
Other January-April highlights for U.S. pork include:
- Japan remains the leading value market for U.S. pork, despite an 18 percent drop in value to $552.4 million. Export volume to Japan was down 11 percent to $149.8 million. April exports to Japan were the largest in 12 months at 45,297 mt, but were still down 5 percent from a year ago.
- Having only a small number of plants approved for export to China continues to inhibit exports to the China/Hong Kong region, with exports down 30 percent in volume (99,184 mt) and 32 percent in value ($214.2 million). Exports regained some momentum in April, however, exceeding year-ago levels for the first time in 13 months, reflecting growth to Hong Kong.
- The Dominican Republic and Guatemala continue to be strong performers for U.S. pork in 2015. Exports to the Dominican Republic were up 32 percent in volume (8,398 mt) and 16 percent in value ($19.4 million), while totals for Guatemala were up 19 percent (to 4,597 mt) and 16 percent ($13.1 million), respectively.
Through the first four months of the year, pork exports equated to 24.5 percent of total production and 20.5 percent of muscle cut production – down from 28 percent and 23 percent, respectively, during the same period last year. Pork export value per head slaughtered averaged $50.35, down 19 percent from a year ago and 4.5 percent lower than in 2013.
Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat unless otherwise noted.
One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds.