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Beef exports moderate in April, but remain well above year-ago levels

Published on 05 June 2017

In April, U.S. red meat exports slowed moderately from the red-hot pace established in March but were still significantly higher year-over-year, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Beef exports reached 99,786 metric tons (mt) in April, up 13 percent from a year ago, valued at $550.4 million, up 14 percent. For January through April, beef exports were up 14 percent in volume (392,001 mt) and 18 percent in value ($2.16 billion) compared with the same period last year.

April exports accounted for 13.6 percent of total U.S. beef production and 10.6 percent for muscle cuts only – up from 13 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively, last year. Through April, exports accounted for 12.7 percent of total beef production (up slightly from last year) and 10 percent for muscle cuts (up from 9.5 percent). April export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $283.52 – up 12 percent from a year ago and the highest of 2017. Through April, per-head export value averaged $271.57, up 11 percent.

“While April was a very solid month for U.S. red meat exports, we remain in an extremely competitive situation across the world and must stay aggressive with our marketing efforts,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “It is especially gratifying to see our per-head return growing in 2017, even as slaughter numbers are on the rise. But this is also not lost on our competitors, who will quickly fill the void if we do not defend our market share. This is why the continued investment of checkoff dollars and USDA funding in international market development is so critically important.”

Asian markets continue to fuel beef export growth

Leading market Japan continued to shine for U.S. beef in April, with exports up 15 percent in volume (23,540 mt) and 17 percent in value ($143.3 million). Through April, exports to Japan exceeded last year’s pace by more than one-third in both volume (97,951 mt, up 34 percent) and value ($570.6 million, up 35 percent). Growth to Japan has been driven by the surging volume of chilled U.S. beef, with the U.S. capturing 52 percent of Japan’s chilled imports, up from 39 percent market share during the first four months of 2016. U.S. chilled exports through April increased by 48 percent to 45,295 mt, valued at $320 million (up 43 percent), indicating widespread acceptance and a growing range of U.S. cuts available in both the retail and foodservice sectors.

Beef exports to South Korea cooled to some degree in April but remained above last year’s strong pace at 11,837 mt (up 8 percent) valued at $78.5 million (up 17 percent). For January through April, exports to Korea were up 19 percent in volume (54,388 mt) and 27 percent in value ($346 million). Similar to Japan, the driver of growth to Korea is in chilled U.S. beef, with exports through April totaling 12,003 mt (up 84 percent) valued at $106 million (up 86 percent). Korean quarantine clearance data show this strong growth continued through May, with the U.S. share of Korea’s chilled beef imports climbing to 53 percent – up from 38 percent in the same period last year.

The recent rebound continued for beef exports to Hong Kong, where a strong April performance pushed year-to-date exports ahead of last year’s pace. April exports were up 73 percent in volume (11,232 mt) and 67 percent in value ($66.6 million). Through April, exports to Hong Kong totaled 37,392 mt (up 2 percent) valued at $233.9 million (up 10 percent).

Driven by excellent results in the Philippines and Vietnam, April exports to the ASEAN region more than doubled from a year ago in volume (3,783 mt, up 105 percent) and nearly doubled in value ($18.1 million, up 95 percent). April exports to the Philippines (1,522 mt) were the largest in two years and the volume shipped to Vietnam (1,035 mt) was the largest since 2012. For January through April, exports to the ASEAN region increased 62 percent from a year ago in volume (10,975 mt) and 48 percent in value ($59.9 million).

Beef exports to Taiwan remained on a very solid pace, with April volume up 15 percent to 3,753 mt and value up 30 percent to $32.9 million. Through April, exports to Taiwan totaled 13,499 mt (up 24 percent) valued at $118.5 million (up 29 percent). This included chilled beef exports of 5,320 mt valued at 61.6 million.

Mexico was the only major market in which April beef exports dipped below last year’s pace, totaling 17,525 mt (down 15 percent) valued at $69.2 million (down 23 percent). Through April, exports to Mexico were still up 7 percent from a year ago in volume (74,582 mt) but were 4 percent lower in value ($296 million).

Complete January through April export results for U.S. beef are available from USMEF’s statistics webpage.

Monthly charts for beef exports are also available online.  end mark

—From U.S. Meat Export Federation news release

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