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May U.S. beef exports reach new heights, pork exports largest of 2022

Christian Fernsby |
U.S. beef exports set new volume and value records in May, topping $1 billion for the fourth time this year, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

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While pork exports were well below last year’s large totals, shipments were the largest of 2022 in both volume and value. U.S. lamb exports continued to trend higher, led by growth in the Caribbean and Mexico.

May beef exports reached 135,006 metric tons (mt), up 1% from the previous high posted in May 2021. Export value climbed 20% to $1.09 billion, breaking the March 2022 record. For January through May, beef exports increased 4% from a year ago to 613,266 mt, valued at $5.14 billion (up 34%).

May pork exports were 224,677 mt, down 21% from the large year-ago total but the highest monthly volume since November. Export value was $655.1 million, down 24% but also the highest since November. Through May, pork exports were down 20% from a year ago to 1.07 million mt, valued at just under $3 billion (down 18%).

Last year exports exceeded $2 billion to each of the three top destinations for U.S. beef: South Korea, Japan and China/Hong Kong. Export value to all three is up significantly in 2022, with each topping $1 billion in just five months.

May exports to Korea were down 8% from a year ago to 27,016 mt, but still climbed 18% in value to $265.1 million. Through May, exports to Korea were 3% ahead of last year’s record pace in volume (125,673), while soaring 41% in value to $1.29 billion. Korea just announced a new 100,000 mt, duty-free quota for beef imports as part of a package to help deal with inflation, effective through the end of this year.

Through free trade agreements, duties are already reduced on imported beef from the U.S. (10.7% for 2022), Australia (16%), Canada (18.6%), New Zealand (18.6%) and the European Union (10%). Mexico and Uruguay do not have FTAs and pay Korea’s full duty of 40%.

Results in Japan were similar to Korea, with May export value up 9% to $226.9 million, despite a 6% drop in volume (28,780 mt). For January through May, exports to Japan were 3% below last year’s pace at 127,622 mt but still climbed 21% in value to $1.04 billion.

Despite COVID lockdowns impacting product movement and foodservice activity in some of China’s largest cities in May, beef exports to China/Hong Kong still climbed 21% from a year ago to 25,177 mt, valued at $218.8 million (up 25%).

This included a new record for beef variety meat exports to China (3,976 mt, up 224%, valued at $15 million, up 169%). Through May, total exports to the China/Hong Kong region were 26% ahead of last year’s record pace in volume (110,551 mt) and 43% higher in value at just over $1 billion.

Following a record April performance, May beef exports to Taiwan were steady with a year ago at 5,623 mt, while value increased 12% to $63.9 million. Through May, exports to Taiwan increased 34% from a year ago to 31,512 mt, while value climbed to $378.3 million – 70% ahead of last year’s record pace.

The continued rebound in foodservice activity in the Caribbean is fueling strong demand for U.S. beef, with January-May exports increasing 39% to 11,507 mt and value nearly doubling to $100.4 million (up 97%).

Export value more than doubled to the Dominican Republic ($40.9 million, up 135%), more than tripled to Jamaica ($10.2 million, up 214%) and increased sharply to the Bahamas ($12.7 million, up 74%).

Beef demand in the ASEAN region has strengthened in 2022, with exports through May climbing 12% to 25,468 mt, valued at $188.2 million (up 68%).

Exports to Indonesia, where foot-and-mouth disease has recently taken a toll on domestic production, increased 17% to 10,621 mt, while value soared 87% to $64 million.

Exports to the Philippines were 9% higher in volume (8,160 mt) and climbed 75% in value ($61.4 million). Exports to Vietnam were steady with last year at 3,668 mt, while value jumped 37% to $30.8 million.

Led by growth to top market Guatemala, along with Panama and Honduras, beef exports to Central America continue to build on last year’s record. Through May, shipments were up 11% to 9,354 mt, valued at $65.3 million (up 29%).

Fueled by variety meat demand in Egypt and larger muscle cut shipments to the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, beef exports to the Middle East increased 8% from a year ago to 30,078 mt, valued at $131.3 million (up 46%).

May beef export value averaged $505.02 per head of fed slaughter, up 17% from a year ago and breaking the previous record ($503.68) set in January 2022. Through May, per-head value averaged $483.49, up 34% from the first five months of 2021. Exports accounted for 17.2% of total May beef production and 14.6% for muscle cuts, each down slightly from last May’s high ratios. January-May exports accounted for 15.4% of total production and 13.1% for muscle cuts, each up about one-half percentage point from a year ago.

Pork exports to Mexico continued to shine in May, as the largest destination for U.S. pork builds further on last year’s record performance. May exports totaled 79,849 mt, up 12% from a year ago, while value climbed 13% to $171.2 million. Through May, exports to Mexico increased 22% to 396,934 mt, valued at $715.1 million (up 12%). To combat inflation, Mexico recently suspended import duties on pork muscle cuts for one year. While this move could attract more product from the European Union, the U.S. industry’s other main competitors – Canadian and Chilean pork – already had duty-free access under existing trade agreements.

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