US beef exports last year shattered the previous value record and achieved a new high for volume, according to year-end 2018 statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation.
Pork export volume came up just short of the record set in 2017 while value slipped 1% year-over-year.
BEEF EXPORTS FUELED BY ASIAN DEMAND
Fueled by demand in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the ASEAN region, 2018 US beef exports reached 1.353 million tonnes, up 89,461, or 708% from 1.263 million in 2017 and exceeding the 2011 previous record of 1.287 million by 65,658 tonnes, or 5.10%.
Export value last year soared to $8.332 billion, breaking the 2017 record of $7.269 billion by $1.063 billion, or 14.6%.
For December only, beef export volume was down 492 tonnes, or 0.43%, from 113,269 tonnes a year ago to 112,777 tonnes, but value still rose $27.282 million, or 4.05%, to $700.2 million from $672.9 million.
Beef export value was also record-shattering on a per-head basis, the USMEF said, averaging $323.14 per head of fed slaughter in 2018. This was a 13% increase over 2017 and exceeded the 2014 record by 8%.
Beef exports accounted for 13.5% of total beef production in 2018 and 11.1% for muscle cuts, up from 12.9% and 10.4%, respectively, in 2017.
While export demand for US beef showed remarkable strength in 2018, no market exemplified this more than South Korea, the USMEF said. Exports to Korea increased 30% year-over-year in volume to 239,676 tonnes and jumped 43% in value to $1.75 billion, an increase of $526 million over the 2017 record and more than double the value total posted just three years ago.
PORK EXPORTS JUST SHORT OF RECORD
Despite significant headwinds, 2018 pork exports reached 2.437 million tonnes, just 11,736 tonnes, or 0.48% below the 2017 record of 2.449 million.
Pork export value last year was $6.392 billion, down $93.892 million, or 1.45% from $6.486 billion in 2017 and the third-highest total on record, trailing only 2014’s $6.648 billion and 2017’s $6.486 billion.
For December only, pork exports, at 209,780 tonnes, were down 10,029 tonnes, or 4.56% from 219,809 tonnes a year ago. They were valued at $527.4 million, down $63.706 million, or 10.8%, from $591.1 million a year earlier.
Pork export value averaged $51.37 per head slaughtered in 2018, down 4% year-over-year, the USMEF said. Exports accounted for 25.7% of total pork production, down about one percentage point from 2017. The ratio was 22.5% when including only pork muscle cuts, up from 22.3% in 2017.
Despite retaliatory tariffs imposed by Mexico in May, volume to Mexico held up relatively well, finishing the year at 777,143 tonnes, 3% below the 2017 record. But value took a bigger hit, declining 13% to $1.31 billion, the lowest since 2015. The value decline from June through December was 24%, totaling $218 million.
CATTLE, BEEF RECAP
Cash cattle trade has taken place this week at $126 to $128 per cwt on a live basis, steady to down $2 from last week, and at $202 to $205 dressed, steady to down $1.
The USDA choice cutout Tuesday was up $0.86 per cwt at $228.22, while select was up $0.72 at $220.35. The choice/select spread widened to $7.87 from $7.73 with 71 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Monday, was $139.04 per cwt, down $0.25. This compares with Tuesday’s Mar contract settlement of $141.30, down $1.00.