U.S. pork and lamb exports made a good showing in 2019, while beef exports took a step back from 2018’s record levels.
Pork exports, at nearly $7 billion, were up 9% in value and 10% in volume year over year.
While beef exports again topped $8 billion, they declined 3% in value and 2% in volume.
Lamb exports increased 12% in value and 22% in volume.
Combined, total U.S. meat exports were up 5.4% in volume and 2.2% in value in 2019 year over year, according to USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
A good end to the year in pork trade pushed 2019 exports beyond 2017’s record level in volume and 2014’s record level in value, according to USMEF.
Pork exports in December were up 34% in volume year over year and 44% in value, breaking volume and value records set in November.
U.S. pork exports to China and Hong Kong put in a record performance in November and climbed even higher in December, up 347% in volume and 308% in value year over year.
“Despite retaliatory duties and other barriers U.S. pork faces in China, exports to the China/Hong Kong region closed 2019 with tremendous momentum,” Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO, said in a press release accompanying the data.
For all of 2019, U.S. pork exports to the region were up 89% in volume and 71% in value.
“We look forward to continued success in 2020, especially if U.S.-China trade relations continue to trend in a positive direction,” he said.
The coronavirus outbreak in China is concerning and disruptive, but it hasn’t changed USMEF’s enthusiasm for meat trade in the region, he said.
U.S. pork exports to Mexico also closed on a positive note with December exports up 10% in volume and 46% in value year over year. The country’s retaliatory tariffs on U.S. pork in the first five months of 2019, however, caused an annual decline of 9% in volume and 2% in value.
U.S. pork exports to leading value market Japan were down 6% in both value and volume in 2019. Much of the decline was in seasoned ground pork due to a wide tariff rate disadvantage compared with European and Canadian product, USMEF reported.
U.S. pork saw significant gains in South America, Central America and Oceania and notable gains in Canada in 2019.
Pork exports represented 26.9% of total U.S. pork production in 2019.
On the beef front, the decline in U.S. exports was partially due to lower shipment to Japan — down 6% in both volume and value in 2019.
But USMEF looks for solid growth in 2020 with the new U.S.-Japan trade agreement, which lowered tariff rates on U.S. beef and pork on Jan. 1 and reduces them further on April 1.
“Buyers in Japan have been waiting a very long time for tariff relief and have already responded enthusiastically,” Halstrom said.
In other top markets for U.S. beef, South Korea’s imports of U.S. beef were up 7% in volume and 5% in value. U.S. beef exports to Mexico were up 5% in value but down 1% in volume. Exports to Hong Kong and China were down 21% in volume and 19% in value due to retaliatory tariffs and other restrictions, USMEF reported.
Beef exports represented 14.1% of total U.S. beef production in 2019.