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May exports of U.S. pork and beef were steady with last year’s strong volumes and increased year-over-year in value, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

May beef exports were also steady year-over-year in volume (117,541 mt) while export value increased 1% to $727.6 million – the second-highest on record, trailing only the August 2018 total of $751.7 million. For January through May, exports were 3% below last year’s record pace in volume (530,088 mt) but only slightly lower in value at $3.3 billion.

Beef export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $312.85 in May, down slightly from a year ago. For January through May, beef export value averaged $309.33 per head, down 3%. May exports accounted for 14.6% of total U.S. beef production and 12% for muscle cuts only, each down slightly from a year ago. For January through May, exports accounted for 14% of total production and 11.3% for muscle cuts – down from 14.6% and 11.9%, respectively, a year ago. (Please note: due to a calculation error, the percentage of beef production exported was incorrectly reported from January 2017 through April 2019. These ratios have now been corrected, and are about 1.1 percentage points higher than originally reported.)

Korea, Taiwan lead strong month for beef exports Beef exports to South Korea remained on a record pace in May, climbing 11% to 23,004 mt and 13% in value to $165 million. January-May exports to Korea were 11% above last year in volume (101,761 mt) and 15% higher in value ($743.5 million). With continued growth at retail and foodservice, U.S. share of Korea’s chilled beef imports reached a post-BSE high of 61%, up from 57% last year and 52% in 2017. Chilled beef from the U.S. totaled 22,268 mt, up 8% year-over-year, valued at $224 million, up 12%.

Following a fairly steady first quarter, beef exports to Taiwan strengthened for the second straight month in May at 5,873 mt (up 27% from a year ago), valued at $52.6 million (up 28%). Through May, exports to Taiwan were 11% above last year’s record pace in volume (24,478 mt) and 4% higher in value ($218.2 million).

Though slightly below last year’s level, May export volume to leading market Japan rebounded to 29,749 mt, while value was down 3% to $190.8 million. Export volume through May was steady with last year’s pace at 128,045 mt while value increased 1% to $828 million. This performance was driven in part by a large increase in beef variety meat exports (mainly tongues and skirts), which jumped 23% in volume (24,135 mt) and 20% in value ($157.5 million). Despite the tariff disadvantages, U.S. beef’s share of Japan’s imports has held nearly steady this year at 41%, but with a level playing field there are tremendous opportunities for growth. For example, Japan’s imports of Canadian and Mexican beef increased by 76% and 39%, respectively, through May.

“The explosive growth U.S. beef has achieved in Korea and Taiwan is a testament to the quality of the product and the outstanding customer base the U.S. industry has established over the years,” Halstrom said. “That same dynamic is present in Japan, on an even larger scale. But for Japan to remain the ‘strong growth’ column, it is essential that we have market access comparable to our key competitors.”

Other January-May highlights for U.S. beef include:

  • Mexico is a very solid market for U.S. beef in 2019. Although exports through May were 2% below last year’s pace at 97,102 mt, value increased 8% to $462.1 million. This was due to strong growth in muscle cut exports, which were up 7% from a year ago in volume (59,357 mt) and 10% in value ($361.5 million).
  • Exports to the Dominican Republic remain on a tremendous roll, soaring 50% above last year’s record pace in volume (3,741 mt) and gaining 39% in value to $30.3 million. U.S. beef continues to capitalize on market access improvements secured in the Dominican Republic-Central-America-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), with exports to Central America also increasing 5% from a year ago in volume (5,699 mt) and 10% in value ($33.8 million). Growth leaders in the region include Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
  • January-May exports to Egypt, the largest destination for U.S. beef livers, were down 7% year-over-year in volume at 28,912 mt, but increased 6% in value to $34.8 million. Exports strengthened in May, increasing 26% in volume (6,224 mt) and 35% in value ($7.1 million) year-over-year. This was significant, as changes in Egypt’s halal certification process that took effect May 1 are a concern for the U.S. industry. But at least so far, these changes do not appear to be slowing exports.
  • Retaliatory tariffs in China and other market access challenges limited U.S. beef exports to China/Hong Kong, with January-May volume down one-third to 38,405 mt and value declining by 27% to $322 million.end mark

—From a USMEF press release

Click the date to see the latest Progressive Cattleman Market watch. (PDF)

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