Record year for US pork exports but beef stumbles

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Us Pork Beef USMEF Livestock

US pork exports saw a record year in 2019, according to US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) data.

It reported that in 2019, US pork exports reached a value of $6.95bn, a 9% year-on-year increase while volumes of pork exports grew 10% year-on-year to 2.67m mt.

Growth in the category was driven by higher demand from Asia, with USMEF reporting that exports to China/Hong Kong grew 89% year-on-year in volume and 71% in value.

“Despite retaliatory duties and the other barriers US. pork faces in China, exports to the China/Hong Kong region closed 2019 with tremendous momentum," said USMEF president and CEO Dan Halstrom. “We look forward to continued success in 2020, especially if US-China trade relations continue to trend in a positive direction. The coronavirus situation is certainly concerning and disruptive, but it hasn't dampened our enthusiasm for the potential this market holds for US red meat.”

Other areas of growth for pork include Mexico which saw a10% rise in volume and a 46% increase in value; South America which experienced a 12% rise in volume and a 16% growth in value and Canada which saw a 4% increase in volume and a 5% rise in value.

Beef woes

It wasn’t as good a year for beef as US exports in 2019 dipped by 3% in value terms and 2.5% in volume terms. This dip was attributed to lower shipments to Japan, which were down 6% in both value and volume terms.

The trend is expected to change given the trade deal between the US and Japan that will see tariff cuts.

South Korea was the big market for US beef in 2019, with volume sales up 7% and value sales up 5%.

“US beef is achieving remarkable success in Korea's traditional retail and foodservice sectors and is well-positioned to capitalize on growth in e-commerce, the institutional sector and other emerging sales channels,”​ Halstrom said. “As US beef moves steadily toward duty-free status in Korea, it becomes accessible and affordable for a wider range of customers whose appetite for US beef continues to grow. We are seeing many new menu concepts in this dynamic market and continued excitement about US beef.”

Other strong beef markets for the US in 2019 were Mexico which saw a 5% value increase but a 1% volume decline and Central America which experienced a 3% volume rise and a 7% value increase.

Looking ahead, USMEF expects Japan and China/Hong Kong to continue to be major players in the beef and pork markets thanks to trade deals. In December alone, beef sales to Japan saw a marked improvement. “It was gratifying to see beef exports to Japan perform so well in December, given that the first tariff rate cut was pending and set to take effect Jan. 1,”​ Halstrom added. “Buyers in Japan have been waiting a very long time for tariff relief and have already responded enthusiastically. We look forward to solid growth in 2020 and beyond.”

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