Rising pork business boosts US exports

The US needs to 'aggressively expand' to defend its export gains, one expert said

The US is poised to overtake Australia in global meat export terms following a strong first quarter of 2017.

It was pork exports that really drove growth for the US. In figures compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), pork exports for the first quarter of 2017 grew 17% in volume terms and 22% in value terms year-on-year.

Mexico continued to be the main destination for US pork in volume terms; during the quarter, pork variety meat exports from the US to Mexico increased 14% in volume and 38% in value. Exports to Japan were up 7% in volume terms and 13% in value terms. Chilled pork exports to Japan increased 3% to 56,307 metric tons, while value increased 10%.

Other pork export highlights included a 5% volume rise to China and Hong Kong and a doubling of volume and value exports to Columbia, thanks to a recent free trade agreement, which created a lower tariff.

Strong return on exports

Meanwhile, beef exports were up 15% in volume and 19% in value terms. Japan proved to be a major driver for this growth, with exports to the country up 41% in volume terms and 42% in value terms.

Although not a major export market for the US, lamb exports were down 26% year-on-year in volume terms due to “weak variety meat demand”. However, export value increased 10% to just under $5 million. This was driven by a strong performance in the Caribbean.

Entering 2017 with record-large pork production and an uptick in beef slaughter, we knew this ‘wall of US meat’ presented a challenge for our industry,” said USMEF president and CEO Philip Seng. “So the fact that first-quarter export volumes are higher than a year ago is not surprising, but it’s important to look beyond that – to the higher percentage of production being exported and the strong return on those exports.

The US is not just moving more meat internationally because we have more available,” he added. “Our products are commanding solid prices and winning back market share in many key destinations, even with a strong US dollar and many trade barriers still in place. But our competitors are working every day to reverse this trend, so we must aggressively expand and defend our international customer base.

Australia still on top

Overall, the country exported 208,000 tonnes (t) shipped weight (swt) according to the US Department of Commerce, just 8,000t swt less than Australia during the quarter, however Meat & Livestock Australia has recently announced a renewed focus on exports. Brazil remains the most prolific meat exporter with 264,000t swt exported during the period despite the scandal in March while India exported 185,000t swt.

For more on global meat markets, click here to purchase a copy of State of the Industry: Global Meat.

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