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April proved to be solid month for U.S. beef and pork exports

Christian Fernsby |
April proved to be a solid month for U.S. beef and pork exports despite coronavirus related interruptions in production and declining purchasing power of some key trading partners, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

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Topics: U.S.    BEEF   

Beef exports were below last April’s large totals but still topped $600 million in value.

Pork exports remained well above year-ago levels but slowed from the record pace established in the first quarter.

April beef exports were down 6% from a year ago to 98,613 metric tons (mt), with value falling 11% to $600.9 million.

But exports achieved outstanding growth in Japan, where U.S.

beef is benefiting from reduced tariffs under the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement, and trended higher to China following late-March implementation of the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement.

For January through April, beef exports totaled 433,316 mt, up 5% from a year ago, valued at $2.66 billion (up 3%).

With lower April slaughter numbers, beef export value per head of fed slaughter climbed to a record $363.35, up 19% from April 2019.

For the first four months of the year, per-head export value increased 5% to $326.47.

April beef exports accounted for 15.9% of total production and 13.5% for beef muscle cuts, up from 13.5% and 11.1%, respectively, a year ago.

Through April, exports accounted for 14.4% of total beef production and 11.9% for muscle cuts, up from 13.8% and 11.2%, respectively, last year.

While China/Hong Kong continued to be the pacesetter for U.S.

pork export growth, April exports also increased significantly to Japan, Vietnam and Chile.

April volume reached 264,048 mt, up 22% from a year ago but the lowest since November 2019.

Export value was $682.8 million, up 28% year-over-year but the lowest since October 2019.

Through the first four months of 2020, pork exports remain on a record pace at 1.1 million mt, up 35% from a year ago, with value up 45% to $2.91 billion.

With production down significantly from the record levels achieved in March, pork export value per head slaughtered jumped to a record $72.55 in April, up 43% from a year ago.

The January-April per-head average was $66.36, up 40%.

April exports accounted for 36.2% of total pork production and 32.2% for pork muscle cuts, each up nearly 10 percentage points from a year ago.

Through April, exports accounted for 32.4% of total pork production and 29.3% for muscle cuts, up from 24.9% and 21.8%, respectively, in the first four months of 2019.

April beef exports to leading market Japan totaled 31,280 mt, up 30% from a year ago, while value was the highest since August 2018 at $196.4 million (up 25%).

Through April, exports to Japan established a record pace at 114,152 mt (up 16%

rom a year ago) valued at $719.8 million (up 13%). Although beef exports to South Korea cooled in April, 2020 shipments remained ahead of last year’s record pace.

April exports totaled 19,411 mt, down 14% from a year ago, valued at $133.9 million (down 19%).

But through April, exports to Korea were still up 6% from a year ago at 83,345 mt, valued at $598.7 million (up 4%).

Korea eased social distancing and stay-at-home requirements in May, leading to a significant increase in domestic travel and foodservice demand through its early May holidays.

After a down year in 2019, demand for U.S. beef has rebounded in Canada.

April exports were up 38% from a year ago at 10,850 mt, with value up 35% to $74.7 million.

Through April, exports to Canada increased 25% in volume (35,399 mt) and 24% in value ($241.1 million).

Canada faced production challenges similar to the U.S., with sharply reduced slaughter volumes in April and May.

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