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Record Value for July Beef Exports; Pork Value also Strong

U.S. beef exports set another new value record in July, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). July export value climbed 45% from a year ago to $939.1 million, while volume was the third largest of the post-BSE era at 122,743 metric tons (mt), up 14% year-over-year.

For January through July, beef exports increased 18% from a year ago to 822,830 mt, with value up 30% to $5.58 billion. Compared to the pace established in 2018, the record year for U.S. beef exports, shipments were up 6% in volume and 17% in value.

July pork exports were steady with last year at 221,809 mt, but export value jumped 20% to $657.3 million. Pork variety meat exports were especially strong at 49,092 mt, up 54% from the low total posted a year ago and 16% above July 2019. Variety meat export value was the second highest on record at $116.7 million, up 69% from a year ago and 39% above 2019.

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For January through July, pork exports were 1% above last year’s record pace at just under 1.8 million mt, while value increased 8% to $4.98 billion.

“Beef exports were really outstanding in July, especially with COVID-related challenges still impacting global foodservice as well as persistent obstacles in shipping and logistics,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Retail demand continues to be tremendous, as evidenced by the new beef value record. On the pork side, the U.S. industry remained focused on market diversity even when China’s import volumes were absolutely off the charts. That philosophy is paying strong dividends now, with exports maintaining a record pace even as muscle cut exports to China trend significantly lower.”

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Halstrom was especially pleased to see pork variety meat exports bolster the July results, climbing back from a labor-related slump in mid-2020.

“While the tight labor situation is still very much a challenge for exporters, the variety meat capture rate has certainly improved and it is great to see exports exceed pre-COVID levels,” he said. “This is especially important because China’s demand for pork variety meat remains strong and it is critical that the U.S. industry capitalizes on this opportunity.”

Asia underpins record beef export value; volumes rebound in Western Hemisphere

July beef exports to the mainstay Asian markets of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were relatively steady with last year, but at significantly higher value. Japan was the pacesetter in both volume (28,549 mt, steady) and value ($225.3 million, up 21%) as retail demand offset ongoing restrictions in the restaurant sector. Through July, Japan was the leading volume destination for U.S. beef (184,836 mt, up 1% from a year ago) and a close second to Korea in value ($1.27 billion, up 9%).

Despite volume falling 4% from a year ago to 23,369 mt, July exports to Korea still posted a 23% increase in value ($207.2 million, second highest on record). Through July, exports to Korea are on a record pace at 165,669 mt, up 17% from a year ago, with value up 29% to $1.29 billion.

Taiwan was one of only a few global markets that did not impose foodservice restrictions in 2020, but suspended most dine-in restaurant service in mid-May of this year. The ban was lifted in late July but with significant restrictions still in place, so demand for U.S. beef continues to shift toward the retail sector. Similar to Korea, July exports to Taiwan fell 3% from a year ago to 5,815 mt, but value still soared 28% to $61.8 million. Through July, export volume was steady with last year at 35,176 mt, while value increased 14% to $341.4 million.

Beef exports to China continued to post impressive growth, with July shipments reaching a record 18,021 mt, valued at $150.5 million. Through July, exports to China were up about 1,000% from a year ago in both volume (99,022 mt) and value ($773 million). U.S. beef accounted for 5% of China’s total imports, and the U.S. is now the primary supplier of grain-fed beef to China. Although beef exports to Hong Kong have trended lower in 2021, shipments to the China/Hong Kong region more than doubled from a year ago to 128,748 mt (up 137%) valued at $1.05 billion (up 139%).

Other January-July highlights for U.S. beef exports include:

  • July beef exports to Mexico increased 17% from a year ago to 15,568, with value nearly doubling to $93 million (up 90%). Through July, compared to last year’s relatively low totals, exports to Mexico posted a 15% increase in volume (115,189 mt) and jumped 30% in value to $574.3 million.
  • Beef exports to Central America were also down in 2020 but have staged an impressive comeback this year. January-July exports set a record pace, climbing 53% to 11,086 mt while value soared 74% to $66.3 million. Exports nearly doubled from a year ago to Costa Rica and were sharply higher to Guatemala, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador.
  • Led by a strong rebound in Colombia and solid growth in Chile and Peru, beef exports to South America increased 24% from a year ago to 16,663 mt, valued at $84.1 million (up 57%).
  • July beef export value equated to $425.68 per head of fed slaughter, up 52% from a year ago. Through July, export value was $369.15 per head, up 24%. Exports accounted for 15.4% of total July beef production and 13.2% for muscle cuts, up significantly from the July 2020 ratios of 12.9% and 10.8%, respectively. Through July, exports accounted for 14.8% of total production (up from 13.2%) and 12.6% for muscle cuts (up from 10.9%).

Mexico, CAFTA region, Philippines keep pork exports on record pace

While July pork exports to Mexico pulled back from the very large totals posted in May and June, volume still increased 18% from a year ago to 66,442 mt while value soared 81% to $146.5 million. Through July, exports to Mexico were up 22% from a year ago to 462,771 mt, with value up 50% to $936 million. Compared to 2017, the record year for export volume to Mexico, January-July exports were 1% higher in volume and 10% higher in value.

Pork exports to Japan trended higher in July (31,344 mt, up 7%), with value up 8% to $138.3 million. This pushed January-July results 7% ahead of last year’s pace at 239,043 mt, valued at just over $1 billion (up 6%). Japan’s imports of U.S. chilled pork gained momentum in recent months and were up 6% from a year ago, totaling 124,566 mt through July.

Following a record performance in 2020, pork exports to Central America continue to achieve broad-based growth. July exports totaled 9,196 mt, one-third higher than a year ago, while value increased 64% to $26.8 million. January-July exports were higher to all markets in the region, led by a doubling of exports to El Salvador and very strong increases in Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica. Through July, exports were up 47% from a year ago to 76,991 mt, valued at $203.5 million (up 58%).

U.S. pork continues to capitalize on temporary tariff relief in the Philippines, where July exports increased 24% to 5,765 mt, valued at $14.2 million (up 16%). Through July, exports to the Philippines roughly tripled last year’s totals in both volume (63,775 mt, up 193%) and value ($166.2 million, up 206%).

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