According to data released by USDA and the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), pork exports broke value and volume records during the month.
Pork export volumes reached 291,459 metric tons (mt) in March, up 38% from a year ago and topping the previous record set in December 2019. Export value grew 47% to $764.2m. Through the first quarter, pork exports increased 40% from a year ago to 838,118mt, valued at $2.23bn (up 52%).
Main markets for US pork were China/Hong Kong as well as Mexico, Japan and Canada.
Beef exports in March also saw year-on-year growth. Exports were 115,308mt, up 7% from a year ago, valued at $702.2m - up 4% and the highest monthly value since July. First quarter beef exports climbed 9% from a year ago to 334,703mt, valued at $2.06bn (up 8%). This was driven by solid growth in Japan, where US beef is benefiting from reduced tariffs under the US-Japan Trade Agreement, as well as South Korea, Mexico, Canada and Taiwan
“March export results were very solid, especially given the COVID-19 related headwinds facing customers in many international markets at that time,” said USMEF president and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Stay-at-home orders created enormous challenges for many countries' foodservice sectors, several key currencies slumped against the US dollar and logistical obstacles surfaced in some key markets - yet demand for US red meat proved very resilient.”
The temporary closures of several US processing plants were not reflected in the first quarter export data. Halstrom said that April and May exports could slow as a result, but his outlook for 2020 remains positive.
“These are truly unprecedented circumstances, creating an uncertain global business climate,” Halstrom added. “The US meat industry has spent decades developing a loyal and well-informed customer base throughout the world, which has embraced the quality and value delivered by US red meat. Their commitment to US products during this crisis is much-appreciated.”