The first month of 2013 offered a mix of good news and challenges for exports of U.S. beef and pork during January, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Beef exports continued the trend shown in 2012 with higher export values on lower volumes, while pork exports improved slightly from December’s levels but remained behind year-ago totals.

Led by sharply higher exports to Hong Kong, Canada and Taiwan, and solid growth to Japan, beef exports for January rose 9.3% in value from year-ago levels on slightly lower (-3.2%) volumes.

Pork exports rebounded slightly from December, but closed 7.6 % lower in value on 11.7% smaller volumes compared to January 2012. The ASEAN region was the bright spot with 17.1% higher volumes and slightly higher (2.7%) value.

“The year ahead will offer no shortage of challenges to red meat exports, which will require our industry to be creative and aggressive,” says Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “On the beef side, we are still dealing with market access barriers in Saudi Arabia and significant obstacles in Russia, but there are signs for optimism in the months ahead with expanded beef access to Japan and Hong Kong that will provide a boost.”

Also in Asia, Seng noted that an overabundance of domestic pork in South Korea is driving down demand for imports there while China’s aggressive efforts to build its domestic pork industry appear to be bearing fruit as its need for imports declines.

Seng also indicated that the continued devaluation of the Japanese yen, which has fallen 20% in value vs. the U.S. dollar since last summer, will be a factor in purchasing patterns by this key trading partner for both beef and pork.

Pork Export Highlights

  • For the month of January, pork exports totaled 186,681 metric tons valued at $523.7 million – declines of 11.7% in volume and 7.6% in value from last January, but up slightly from December’s totals of 186,135 metric tons valued at $515.9 million.
  • Japan remains the value leader, buying 37,745 metric tons of U.S. pork (-9.5%) valued at $173.6 million (+1.7%).
  • Mexico remains the volume leader, purchasing 55,103 metric tons (-9%) valued at $102.7 million (-6.9%).
  • Russia posted the largest pork export gains at 3,314 metric tons (+8.2%) valued at $10.2 million (+9.7%),  although some of that purchase may have been made in anticipation of Russia’s closing off its borders to U.S. pork and beef in February.
  • The ASEAN region posted a 17.1% gain in pork volume (to 4,921 metric tons) and a 2.7% bump in value to $10.8 million. One metric ton equals 1.103 short tons.

 

“Looking ahead, USMEF is focusing on building demand for chilled and branded pork in both Japan and Korea as well as overall consumer demand for pork in Mexico,” Seng says. “We will see benefits from these campaigns in the year ahead.”

 

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