Pork, beef exports off to strong start
Meat producers find eager buyers around world
By TIM HEARDEN
U.S. pork and beef exports continued their lucrative trends in February, with pork remaining well ahead of its record pace of 2011, according to government statistics.
In all, 187,629 metric tons of pork was shipped out of the country in February, a 9 percent increase from the same month a year ago, while value jumped 21 percent to $526.2 million, according to USDA statistics compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
This is the first time the U.S. pork export value has topped the $1 billion mark only two months into the year. While the volume of pork exports to China in February was the smallest since last June, shipments to Japan, Mexico and South Korea have more than taken up the slack, said Joe Schuele, a USMEF spokesman.
"In Korea, we're up 45 percent in value over last year," he said, noting that the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement didn't take effect until mid-March. "We're very strong in the Asian markets ... as well as Latin America. We are really pleased to see the numbers continue to move upward."
Beef exports trended slightly lower in volume in February but posted big results in terms of value, according to the USMEF. Export value increased 10 percent from February 2011 to $409 million, and it totaled $815 million for the first two months of the year.
Russia, the Middle East and Latin America have led the beef export value surge, with exports to Russia expected to benefit from a higher muscle cut tariff rate quota, the organization stated in a news release.
Mexico remained the No. 1 beef destination in terms of both volume (38,070 metric tons) and value ($170.6 million), the USMEF reported. It is also the largest volume market for U.S. pork, with exports for the year increasing 24 percent in value to $208 million over early 2011.
While overall beef exports in February were 3 percent lower in volume from the same month last year, it would have been difficult for the industry to continue last year's brisk pace, Schuele said.
"We have seen our volumes remain fairly steady," he said. "It could be that we're getting a little bit of push back in some of the markets due to price. That is a case of there being a very limited beef supply worldwide. We're pleased to see our volume remaining fairly level while the value continues to increase."
U.S. lamb exports through the first two months of this year were down 10 percent in volume (2,362 metric tons) and 4 percent in value ($3.8 million) from early 2011, the USMEF reported.
However, lamb muscle cuts were up 6 percent in volume (1,162 metric tons) and 4 percent in value ($2.5 million).
U.S. Meat Export Federation statistics: http://www.usmef.org/news-statistics/statistics/