September exports of U.S. beef were steady with last year in volume but export value trended lower, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Pork exports were above year-ago levels in September but pulled back from the large totals posted in June, July and August.
September beef exports totaled 109,799 metric tons (mt), essentially even with last year, valued at $661.3 million (down 4%). Through the first three quarters of the year, beef exports were 2% below last year’s record pace in both volume (991,325 mt) and value ($6.1 billion).
Beef export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $318.54 in September, up significantly from the previous month but still 5% below last year. The January-September average was down 3% to $310.77. September exports accounted for 14.6% of total U.S. beef production and 11.9% for muscle cuts only, down from 14.8% and 12.4%, respectively, last year. Through the first three quarters of the year, exports accounted for 14.3% of total beef production and 11.6% for muscle cuts, down from 14.6% and 12.1%, respectively, in 2018.
September pork exports increased 13% from a year ago in both volume (202,248 mt) and value ($532.2 million). These results pushed January-September export volume 5% ahead of last year’s pace at 1.9 million mt, while value increased 2% to $4.89 billion.
Pork export value averaged $49.98 per head slaughtered in September, up 3% from a year ago. For January through September, the per-head average was down 2% to $51.50. September exports accounted for 25.1% of total U.S. pork production, slightly higher than a year ago, and 21.7% for muscle cuts only (down slightly). January-September exports accounted for 26.3% of total pork production and 22.8% for muscle cuts, both up slightly from a year ago.
“While red meat exports face obstacles in some key markets, global demand dynamics are strong and we see opportunities for significant growth in the fourth quarter and into 2020,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Progress is being made on market access improvements and this makes for a very positive outlook going forward.”
Beef export trend to Japan highlights need for tariff relief
Beef exports to leading market Japan continue to reflect the tariff rate gap between U.S. beef and its competitors. September exports were 14% below last year in both volume (24,041 mt) and value ($148.3 million). For the first three quarters of the year, exports to Japan were 4% below last year’s pace in volume (241,739 mt) and 5% lower in value ($1.51 billion). The decline was steeper for beef muscle cuts, which were down 10% in volume to 192,676 mt, valued at $1.22 billion (down 9%). Beef variety meat exports to Japan (mainly tongues and skirts) have been a bright spot in 2019, increasing 26% in volume (49,063 mt) and 15% in value ($290.8 million). While these items also face higher tariffs compared to competitors’ products, the rate is 12.8% versus 38.5% for U.S. muscle cuts.
“Japan is still delivering excellent value for U.S. beef producers, but tariff relief cannot come soon enough,” Halstrom explained, referring to the recently signed U.S.-Japan trade agreement, which is being discussed and considered for approval by the Japanese Parliament. “With a level playing field, the U.S. beef industry will move a wider range of products to our loyal customers in Japan and will definitely capitalize on emerging growth opportunities.”
Beef exports to South Korea continue to build on last year’s record performance, as September exports climbed 11% from a year ago in volume (21,267 mt) and 6% in value ($151.6 million). For January through September, exports reached 195,557 mt (up 8%) valued at $1.36 billion (up 10%). Korea surpassed Japan as the top value market for U.S. beef muscle cuts, reaching $1.36 billion through September (up 10% year-over-year). Muscle cut volume to Korea increased 9% to 185,288 mt. Korean customs data (January through October) indicate U.S. beef accounts for 56% of Korea’s beef imports this year, up from 53% last year.
Fueled by strong demand for variety meat, September beef exports to Mexico were slightly above last year in volume (19,464 mt) and 2% higher in value ($91.2 million). Through the first three quarters of the year, exports to Mexico reached 175,992 mt, down 1% from a year ago, while value increased 5% to $820.7 million. Mexico is the leading destination for beef variety meat and September was an especially strong month, as variety meat exports climbed 26% from a year ago in volume (9,018 mt) and 51% in value ($26.4 million). While January-September variety meat exports were steady year-over-year in volume (71,522 mt), value jumped 16% to $192.5 million.
January-September highlights for U.S. beef include:
- Beef exports to Taiwan remain well ahead of last year’s record pace, climbing 10% in volume (47,868 mt) and 6% in value ($427.3 million). In just nine months, exports to Taiwan have already surpassed all full-year totals posted before 2018.
- Led by impressive growth in Indonesia, beef exports to the ASEAN region were 31% ahead of last year’s pace in volume (44,481 mt) and 15% higher in value ($214.5 million). Exports to Indonesia soared 74% in volume (16,984 mt) and were 42% higher in value ($60.5 million). Demand for beef variety meat increased at an even more rapid pace in Indonesia, jumping 83% in volume (9,207 mt) and 78% in value ($18.4 million).
- Strong September results in Central America pushed beef exports 8% above last year’s pace in volume (11,351 mt) and 13% higher in value ($64.6 million), led by strong growth in Guatemala and Panama.
- Although volume slowed in September, beef exports to the Dominican Republic remained on a record pace, increasing 39% from a year ago in volume (6,594 mt) and 32% in value ($53.2 million).
Rebuilding effort continues for U.S. pork in Mexico; exports to China/Hong Kong moderate
Since Mexico removed its 20% retaliatory duty on U.S. pork in late May, exports have rebounded significantly but not yet to the record-large, pre-tariff levels posted in 2017 and early 2018. September exports to Mexico were down 1% year-over-year in volume (56,467 mt), but value increased 7% to $97.6 million. Through the first three quarters of the year, exports were down 10% in volume (529,776 mt) and 9% in value ($919.4 million).
“Although the U.S. industry has made rebuilding pork demand in Mexico a top priority, there is definitely a lingering effect from the retaliatory duties, which were in place for nearly a full year,” Halstrom said. “While it is a great relief to once again move pork to Mexico duty-free, ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement would certainly help the psychology of the market and bolster our major customers’ confidence in the U.S. supply chain.”
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