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 percent). Through the first three quarters of the year, beef exports were 2 percent 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 percent below last year. The January-September average was down 3 percent to $310.77. September exports accounted for 14.6 percent of total U.S. beef production and 11.9 percent for muscle cuts only, down from 14.8 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, last year. Through the first three quarters of the year, exports accounted for 14.3 percent of total beef production and 11.6 percent for muscle cuts, down from 14.6 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively, in 2018.
September pork exports increased 13 percent from a year ago in both volume (202,248 mt) and value ($532.2 million). These results pushed January-September export volume 5 percent ahead of last year’s pace at 1.9 million mt, while value increased 2 percent to $4.89 billion.
Pork export value averaged $49.98 per head slaughtered in September, up 3 percent from a year ago. For January through September, the per-head average was down 2 percent to $51.50. September exports accounted for 25.1 percent of total U.S. pork production, slightly higher than a year ago, and 21.7 percent for muscle cuts only (down slightly). January-September exports accounted for 26.3 percent of total pork production and 22.8 percent 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.”
Need for tariff relief highlighted
Beef exports to leading market Japan continue to reflect the tariff rate gap between U.S. beef and its competitors. September exports were 14 percent 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 percent below last year’s pace in volume (241,739 mt) and 5 percent lower in value ($1.51 billion). The decline was steeper for beef muscle cuts, which were down 10 percent in volume to 192,676 mt, valued at $1.22 billion (down 9 percent). Beef variety meat exports to Japan (mainly tongues and skirts) have been a bright spot in 2019, increasing 26 percent in volume (49,063 mt) and 15 percent in value ($290.8 million). While these items also face higher tariffs compared to competitors’ products, the rate is 12.8 percent versus 38.5 percent 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 percent from a year ago in volume (21,267 mt) and 6 percent in value ($151.6 million). For January through September, exports reached 195,557 mt (up 8 percent) valued at $1.36 billion (up 10 percent). Korea surpassed Japan as the top value market for U.S. beef muscle cuts, reaching $1.36 billion through September (up 10 percent year over year). Muscle cut volume to Korea increased 9 percent to 185,288 mt. Korean customs data (January through October) indicate U.S. beef accounts for 56 percent of Korea’s beef imports this year, up from 53 percent 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 percent higher in value ($91.2 million). Through the first three quarters of the year, exports to Mexico reached 175,992 mt, down 1 percent from a year ago, while value increased 5 percent 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 percent from a year ago in volume (9,018 mt) and 51 percent in value ($26.4 million). While January-September variety meat exports were steady year over year in volume (71,522 mt), value jumped 16 percent 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 percent in volume (47,868 mt) and 6 percent 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 percent ahead of last year’s pace in volume (44,481 mt) and 15 percent higher in value ($214.5 million). Exports to Indonesia soared 74 percent in volume (16,984 mt) and were 42 percent higher in value ($60.5 million). Demand for beef variety meat increased at an even more rapid pace in Indonesia, jumping 83 percent in volume (9,207 mt) and 78 percent in value ($18.4 million).
• Strong September results in Central America pushed beef exports 8 percent above last year’s pace in volume (11,351 mt) and 13 percent 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 percent from a year ago in volume (6,594 mt) and 32 percent in value ($53.2 million).
Lamb exports trend higher
Exports of U.S. lamb increased 22 percent year over year in September to 1,435 mt, while value improved 9 percent to $1.77 million. Through the first three quarters of the year, exports were 31 percent above last year’s pace at 12,061 mt, while value increased 13 percent to $19.3 million.
Lamb muscle cut exports were 9 percent lower than a year ago in volume (1,652 mt) but increased 2 percent in value ($10.2 million). Markets showing promising muscle cut growth included the Dominican Republic, Panama and Guatemala. — USMEF