U.S. pork exports continued to gain momentum in November, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) earlier this month.
November pork exports were up 8 percent from a year ago to 181,678 metric tons (mt), the largest volume since May. Pork export value was $452.6 million, down 13 percent from a year ago but up slightly from October. As has been the case in recent months, pork muscle cut export volume was up significantly year-over-year (148,740 mt, up 19 percent) while variety meat exports declined 23 percent to 32,938 mt. (As USMEF has previously noted, year-over-year comparisons for pork variety meat may not be entirely accurate due to issues with 2014 data for Japan.*)
For the first 11 months of 2015, pork exports were down 3 percent from a year ago in volume to 1.94 million mt and 17 percent lower in value at $5.11 billion. Jan.-Nov. exports accounted for 24 percent of total production and 21 percent for muscle cuts only – down from 27 percent and 22 percent, respectively, in 2014. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $48.61, down 23 percent year-over-year.
November pork exports to Mexico reached 61,275 mt, up 15 percent year-over-year and the third time in 2015 that monthly export volume topped 60,000 mt. With January-November exports up 5 percent to 650,839 mt, export volume to Mexico is on pace to set a new record for the fourth consecutive year. Export value was down 20 percent to $1.15 billion, reflecting lower U.S. prices, but the Mexican peso was down an average of 16 percent in 2015, largely offsetting any break in pork prices for Mexican customers.
With several U.S. pork plants regaining eligibility for China near the beginning of November, exports to the China/Hong Kong region were the largest of 2015 at 33,462 mt, valued at $65.6 million. While trailing the performance of 2011-2013, these results were up 41 percent in volume and 9 percent in value from November 2014. For January through November, exports to China/Hong Kong remained 2 percent lower in volume (305,365 mt) than a year ago and were down 11 percent in value ($632.9 million). With strong growth from the European Union, China/Hong Kong’s total imports through November reached 1.7 million mt, up 7 percent from a year ago and on pace for a new record.
After cooling to some degree in the previous two months, November pork exports to South Korea reached 13,172 mt – the largest volume since May and up 5 percent year-over-year. For the first 11 months of 2015, exports to Korea were up 27 percent in volume (153,421 mt) and 11 percent in value ($433.8 million). Korea’s imports from all suppliers were up 28 percent to nearly 450,000 mt, with U.S. market share holding fairly steady at 32 percent.
Exports to leading value market Japan continued to struggle in November, pushing the 11-month total down 13 percent year-over-year in volume (374,720 mt) and 18 percent lower in value ($1.46 billion). While demand for U.S. chilled pork has rebounded in Japan, these gains have been offset by lower volumes of frozen pork and ground seasoned pork. With increased competition from the European Union, U.S. market share has dipped to 39 percent in 2015, down from 44 percent in 2013. However, Japan’s frozen inventories of imported pork recently fell 26 percent below the previous year’s large volume, indicating potential for import growth in 2016.
“November offered some encouraging signs for U.S. meat exports, though the results were certainly not at the levels we would like to see,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “Despite the weak peso, Mexico continues to be a very strong performer for U.S. pork. Exports to most Asian markets are showing upward momentum, but clearly the need to defend and expand our market share in Japan has never been greater.”
Looking ahead to 2016, USMEF sees opportunities for U.S. pork to regain market share, with larger U.S. production and improved market access in some key regions, but the competitive landscape remains very intense.
- Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat unless otherwise noted.
- One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds.
- *Excluding Japan, January-November pork variety meat exports were down 9 percent year-over-year to 364,868 mt. In 2014, some exports for Japan were miscoded as large intestines and the data has not yet been corrected, thus skewing the 2015 comparisons.