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U.S. pork exports shatter records, December beef exports outstanding

Christian Fernsby |
U.S. pork exports reached nearly 3 million metric tons (mt) in 2020, topping the 2019 record by 11%, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

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Topics: U.S.   

Pork export value also climbed 11% to a record $7.71 billion.

U.S. beef exports finished 2020 lower year-over-year, falling 5% in both volume (1.25 million mt) and value ($7.65 billion).

But beef exports finished the year with very strong momentum, with fourth quarter volume up 4.5% from 2019 and posting one of the best months on record in December.

Beef exports were heavily impacted by foodservice restrictions in many major markets but trended higher late in the year, bolstered by very strong retail and holiday demand.

December pork exports totaled 259,654 mt, down 8% from the very large year-ago volume, with value down 10% to $687.2 million.

December muscle cut exports were also down 8% at 219,224 mt, valued at $590.2 million (down 11%).

For the full year, pork muscle cut exports were record-large at 2.51 million mt, up 15% from 2019, valued at a record $6.67 billion (up 12%).

Pork export value equated to $59.87 per head slaughtered in December, down 10% from a year ago, but the full-year average of $58.65 per head was 10% above 2019.

December exports accounted for 28.8% of total pork production and 26.1% for muscle cuts, down from the December 2019 ratios of 32.1% and 29.3%, respectively.

But for the full year, exports accounted for a significantly higher percentage of both total pork production (29.3%, up from 26.9%) and muscle cuts (26.5%, up from 23.6%).

December beef exports totaled 119,892 mt, up 8% from December 2019 and the largest in nearly 10 years.

Export value was $744 million, up 9% from a year ago and the second highest total on record (trailing only July 2018).

December exports of beef muscle cuts were the second largest ever at 93,941 mt, climbing 11% year-over-year in both volume and value ($659.8 million).

For 2020, beef muscle cut exports were down 2% year-over-year at 976,953 mt and fell 5% in value to $6.77 billion.

Beef export value equated to $349.10 per head of fed slaughter in December, up 9% year-over-year and the highest since April.

The full-year average was $302.31 per head, down 2% from 2019.

December exports accounted for 15% of total beef production and 12.6% for muscle cuts, exceeding the December 2019 ratios of 14.3% and 11.6%, respectively.

2020 exports accounted for 13.5% of total beef production and 11.3% for muscle cuts, compared to 14.1% and 11.4%, respectively, in 2019.

Pork exports to China/Hong Kong totaled 1.04 million mt in 2020, up 56% from a year ago, while value climbed 63% to $2.37 billion.

Shipments to the region accounted for about one-third of total U.S.

export volume, but this percentage declined later in the year as exports achieved more broad-based growth.

While USMEF does not expect 2021 exports to China/Hong Kong to match the levels posted over the past year, the region will still have a strong need for imported pork.

While pork exports to Mexico finished lower in both volume (688,253 mt, down 3%) and value ($1.15 billion) compared to 2019, the market showed an impressive rebound late in the year.

December exports increased 8% to 71,426 mt, the third consecutive month of year-over-year volume growth.

Pork exports to Japan also gained momentum in the fourth quarter (up 12%) as the U.S. industry continued to capitalize on tariff relief provided in the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement.

2020 exports to Japan finished 5% higher than a year ago at 386,700 mt, with value up 6% to $1.63 billion.

U.S. market share rebounded to 36% of Japan’s total pork imports, up from a low of 31% in 2019.

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