Strong pork export momentum continues in May

Strong pork export momentum continues in May

U.S. pork exports posted a strong May performance, increasing significantly from the previous month and from year-ago levels, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) this month.

Pork exports reached 222,015 metric tons (mt) in May, up 11 percent year-over-year and the fourth-largest monthly volume on record. Pork export value was $583.2 million, up 16 percent. For January through May, exports increased 14 percent from a year ago in volume (1.05 million mt, a record pace) and 18 percent in value ($2.68 billion).

Even with the growth in U.S. pork production, exports account for a larger share in 2017. May exports equated to 29.4 percent of total production and just under 25 percent for muscle cuts only, up from 28.4 percent and 24.3 percent, respectively, last year. Through the first five months of 2017, exports accounted for 27.9 percent of total production and 23.2 percent for muscle cuts (up from 25.2% and 21.3%). Exports also are commanding higher prices, indicative of strong demand across a wide range of international markets. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $58.61 in May, up 7 percent from a year ago. The January-May average was $54.23, up 14 percent.

May was a particularly strong month for variety meat exports, with pork variety meat volume climbing 16 percent to 47,766 mt (a record high for May), and value up 33 percent to $102.7 million.

“2017 is shaping up as a very solid year for U.S. pork exports, but we remain in an extremely competitive situation in each of our key markets,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president/CEO. “That’s why it is so important to capitalize on every opportunity to increase carcass value, and this is where variety meat plays an important role. USMEF has been working with our industry partners to expand the range of variety meat product offerings and diversify their destinations, and those efforts are paying important dividends for producers.”

Pork exports solid throughout Western Hemisphere and in key Asian markets
Pork exports to leading volume market Mexico showed no signs of slowing from their torrid pace, as May volume climbed 21 percent from a year ago to 68,763 mt and export value jumped 24 percent to $130 million. Through May, exports to Mexico were up 23 percent from a year ago in volume (333,853 mt) and 32 percent in value ($606.6 million). In addition to strong demand for hams and other muscle cuts, Mexico also is competing with China for U.S. pork variety meat. January-May variety meat exports to Mexico were up 14 percent to 62,328 mt and value increased by one-third to $96.4 million.

Fueled by exceptional growth in Colombia and Chile, pork exports to Central and South America were up 66 percent in volume (14,899 mt) in May and climbed 78 percent in value ($37.4 million). Through the first five months of the year, exports to this region were up 49 percent in volume to 68,640 mt and 53 percent in value to $165.2 million.

Led by the Dominican Republic, demand for U.S. pork also is strong in the Caribbean, where May exports increased 64 percent from a year ago in volume (5,843 mt) and 58 percent in value ($13.4 million). For January through May, exports jumped 32 percent from a year ago in both volume (22,726 mt) and value ($53.2 million).

Turning to the Asian markets, pork exports to leading value destination Japan were significantly higher in May, climbing 11 percent in volume (35,641 mt) and 20 percent in value ($145.5 million). Through May, exports to Japan increased 6 percent in volume (169,774 mt) and 12 percent in value ($686.3 million). This included a 2 percent increase in chilled pork to 91,236 mt, valued at $425 million (up 11 percent). U.S. market share in Japan has increased slightly from last year, reaching 36 percent. But competition remains fierce, with the EU dominating frozen pork imports and Canada continuing to make gains in the high-value chilled sector.

South Korea is a top performer for U.S. pork with January-May exports increasing 31 percent from a year ago in volume (81,313 mt) and 40 percent in value ($221.6 million). Although Korea’s pork production is running slightly higher than last year, demand for pork is very strong and U.S. pork is an increasingly attractive option. With online shopping especially popular in Korea and home meal replacement products and other convenience items offered both online and in stores, USMEF continues to introduce new U.S. processed pork items. The U.S. dominates Korea’s processed pork market, with imports from the U.S. valued at $24 million through May, up 3 percent.

Corresponding with the decline in China’s hog prices, pork muscle cut demand in China/Hong Kong continues to soften compared to last year’s record imports, but variety meat demand remains strong. Through May, combined pork and pork variety meat exports to the region fell 2 percent below last year’s pace in volume (228,827 mt) but remained 5 percent higher in value ($461.9 million). January-May variety meat exports were up 20 percent in volume (143,767 mt) and 29 percent in value ($304.2 million, accounting for 64% of the global total). Pork variety meat exports to China/Hong Kong equated to $6.15 for every U.S. hog harvested in the first five months of this year, up 25 percent from last year.


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