First quarter pork export volume up 2 percent

First quarter pork export volume up 2 percent

March pork exports increased year-over-year in volume, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) on May 5. March export values were lower than a year ago, but trended upward, reaching a 2016 high.

March pork exports were the largest in 11 months at 195,898 mt, up 3 percent year-over-year. First-quarter exports reached 534,321 mt, up 2 percent. March export value ($480.4 million) was down 3 percent from a year ago, but the highest since May 2015. First-quarter export value totaled $1.3 billion, 9 percent below last year’s pace.

“Exports showed an encouraging level of improvement in March, especially to our key Asian markets,” said USMEF President/CEO Philip Seng. “The U.S. pork industry is now better positioned to capitalize on strong demand in China. Pork exports to Japan were also higher, though we are still in a very tough battle for market share as Japan’s imports from Europe increased at a faster pace. So while U.S. exports continue to recover from a down year in 2015, volumes are on track for improvement in most markets this year.”

March pork exports to the China/Hong Kong region were 50,695 mt, up 80 percent from a year ago and the largest volume since December 2011. For the first quarter, exports to China/Hong Kong increased 83 percent in volume (124,231 mt) and 54 percent in value ($233.7 million). But China’s imports from all suppliers – especially the European Union – have been record-large in recent months, raising concerns that the market could soften despite the downward trend in domestic production.

Japan’s pork imports from all suppliers showed renewed momentum in March, which helped boost U.S. exports to Japan above year-ago levels for the first time this year. Led by strong demand for U.S. chilled pork, March exports were 36,914 mt, up 3 percent from a year ago and the largest volume since May 2015. March export value increased 5 percent to $138.7 million. For the first quarter, exports to Japan were still lower year-over-year in both volume (94,982 mt, -9%) and value ($363.2 million, -6%).

Pork exports saw mixed results in North America in March, with exports to Mexico falling 17 percent in volume (51,452 mt) and 16 percent in value ($86.6 million). For the first quarter, exports to Mexico were down 11 percent (159,947 mt) and 18 percent ($262.7 million), respectively. March exports to Canada were the largest in six months at 18,871 mt, which was steady with last year. Export value slipped 4 percent to $68.7 million. First-quarter exports to Canada were down 3 percent from a year ago in volume (47,510 mt) and 9 percent lower in value ($174.2 million).

First-quarter exports equated to 24 percent of total pork production and 20 percent for muscle cuts only – both steady with last year. But for March, the muscle cut ratio was 22 percent – the highest in 10 months. Export value averaged $44.41 per head in the first quarter, down 10 percent from the same period last year.


  • Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat, unless otherwise noted.
  • One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds.