U.S. exports of red meat began 2014 on a positive note despite concerns that the year as whole could be challenging, says the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
According to USDA statistics, USMEF says beef exports continued the strong performance set in 2013, rising 13% in volume and 16% in value for the month, bolstered by double-digit growth to Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong.
Pork exports rose 3% in volume and 2% in value for the month, driven by growth to Mexico, while lamb exports increased 7% in volume and 9% in value.
Higher prices ahead
USMEF expects higher U.S. pork and beef prices to create challenges for American red meat exports in the months ahead, particularly in markets where customers are more price-sensitive.
"In pork, there are a number of recognized challenges on the production side as well as unresolved access issues," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "In addition, we are also seeing increased competition in the form of higher marketing budgets and favorable prices for the EU, Brazil and Canada."
Seng also noted that with U.S. beef production expected to drop 5% this year, and already running below last year's levels, it will be challenging to maintain export levels.
Strong performances in the key markets of Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong, plus solid growth in Central/South America offset a drop in exports to Canada, partially driven by the weaker Canadian dollar, as well as declines in the value of exports to the Middle East and volume to South Korea.
The reemerging Indonesian market was the eighth-largest single-country destination by volume as exports continued the strong pace set back in October following improved market access conditions.
January exports of 97,824 metric tons were up 13%. Export value rose 16% year-over-year to $514.5 million. Exports accounted for 13% of total beef production, and 10% of muscle cuts alone – increases of 2% and 1%, respectively. The export value per head of fed slaughter was $219.73, up $14.79 from last year.
Top-performing beef export markets in January were:
• Mexico: 20,228 mt (up 23%) valued at $93.6 million (up 27%)
• Japan: 15,655 mt (up 53%) valued at $92.9 million (up 28%)
• Hong Kong: 12,811 mt (up 83%) valued at $80.9 million (up 118%)
Solid export growth to Mexico and the largest export volume to Japan since October 2012 helped push U.S. pork exports up 3% in volume and 2% in value.
Sales to the Hong Kong/China region were steady in volume versus last January, but rose 15% in value. The Central/South America region was up sharply, driven by triple-digit growth to Columbia, while both Oceania and the ASEAN region posted solid increases.
Pork exports accounted for 25.5% of total pork production and 21% of muscle cuts alone, up slightly from January of 2013. Export value averaged $54.70 per head, up $2.12 from last year.
Top-performing pork export markets in January were:
• Mexico: 59,825 mt (up 9%) valued at $113.2 million (up 10%)
• Japan: 39,069 mt (up 4%) valued at $163.4 million (down 6%)
• Hong Kong/China: 34,766 mt (even) valued at $82.7 million (up 15%)
Lamb exports for January increased 7% in volume to 1,056 mt and 9% in value to $2.7 million. Mexico remains the top lamb destination, purchasing 913 mt valued at $1.5 million. The Caribbean, Canada and the Middle East follow in volume, although Central/South America is emerging as a market, largely driven by sales to Panama: 13 mt (up 550%) valued at $96,000 (up 243%).