WASHINGTON, March 13, 2012- Early indications for 2012 U.S. red meat exports show pork, beef and lamb exports keeping up with last year’s record-setting levels, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).  

January pork exports jumped 28 percent in volume and 43 percent in value while beef exports were even in volume but rose 14 percent in value, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the USMEF.

“There is a challenge to follow a very successful year like 2011 and sustain the momentum,” said USMEF president and CEO, Philip Seng. “The good news is that there are opportunities to expand the presence of U.S. red meat by exploring new market niches as well as increasing access with several key trading partners.”

Several key measurements also showed continued growth in export value per head and percentage of total production exported. For pork, January’s export value equated to $59.44 per head of commercial slaughter compared to $43.59 a year ago, and 29.6 percent of total production (including variety meat) was exported in January versus 24.2 percent last year. For just muscle cuts, 25 percent of production was exported this January compared to 20 percent last year.

Beef exports equated to $197.95 per head of fed slaughter in value compared to $170.10 last year. The percentage of production exported – 12.3 percent for beef and variety meats and 9 percent for just muscle cuts– remained the same.

Pork exports

Sales jumped in double or triple figures with the top key pork trading partners, surging 21 percent in volume and 27 percent in value to Mexico; 88 percent and 158 percent to China; and 17 percent and 28 percent to Japan.

For the month, the U.S. exported 211,457 metric tons of pork valued at $566.9 million, increases of 28 percent in volume and 43 percent in value. While it’s early in the year, it is encouraging that these increases are coming on the heels of a year that saw 2011 pork exports top 2.25 million metric tons valued at more than $6.1 billion, according to USMEF.

“In some markets, such as Japan, we are reaching into new secondary markets and niches like the sozai (deli) segment,” Seng said. “In others, like South Korea, we’re focused on sustaining the progress we made last year and preparing for the imminent implementation of the Korea-U.S. FTA. Korea has made significant progress in rebuilding their hog inventories so we expect total imports to decrease this year but the U.S. will also gain a competitive edge against other suppliers through the FTA.”

Top pork export markets in January were:

  • Mexico: 60,737 metric tons (up 21 percent) valued at $110.3 million (up 27 percent)
  • Japan: 41,697 metric tons (up 17 percent) valued at $170.8 million (up 28 percent)
  • China: 36,175 metric tons (up 88 percent) valued at $75.1 million (up 158 percent)
  • Canada: 19,167 metric tons (up 47 percent) valued at $65.7 million (up 52 percent)
  • South Korea: 18,173 metric tons (up 38 percent) valued at $51.5 million (up 61 percent)

Beef exports

After a record-setting 2011 that saw the U.S. export nearly 1.3 million metric tons of beef valued at more than $5.4 billion, the industry maintained the pace in January with equal export volumes (89,454 metric tons) while value jumped 14 percent to $405.9 million, USMEF reported.

“Market diversification remains a key for beef in 2012,” said Seng. “We’re aggressively pursuing new opportunities in the Middle East, which has grown to be the No. 2 volume market. The Central/South America region (Chile, Peru and Guatemala) is another where the growth (73 percent in volume and 79 percent in value in January) justifies our intensified focus on the retail, food service and processing sectors there.”

An expanded tariff rate quota (TRQ) in Russia – up to 60,000 metric tons from 41,700 last year – creates new opportunities for U.S. beef. American beef muscle cut exports to Russia in January jumped 84 percent to 2,129 metric tons.

In addition, Seng noted that the U.S. beef industry remains optimistic that Japan will expand access for its products during 2012. Currently, the U.S. only can export to Japan beef from animals fewer than 21 months old, severely limiting opportunities in a country that was the No. 1 beef export market in 2003 prior to BSE.

Top beef export markets in January were:

  • Mexico: 19,850 metric tons (down 2 percent) valued at $87.1 million (up 16 percent)
  • Middle East: 13,047 metric tons (up 12 percent) valued at $29 million (up 14 percent)
  • Canada: 12,582 metric tons (down 3 percent) valued at $72.7 million (up 15 percent)
  • South Korea: 11,697 metric tons (down 2 percent) valued at $51.9 million (up 6 percent)
  • Japan: 9,688 metric tons (up 2 percent) valued at $59.6 million (up 26 percent)

Lamb exports

USMEF reported positive news for U.S. lamb exports as well in January. Top destination Mexico (accounting for 74.5 percent of total lamb exports by volume and 54.6 percent by value) raised its purchases 31 percent in volume to 1,021 metric tons and 25 percent in value to $1.1 million.


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