Q1 Pork, Beef Exports Strong

Underpinned by record production, US pork exports completed a tremendous first quarter with new March records for volume and value, according to data released by the USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation.

Beef exports also trended higher year-over-year in March, establishing a record first quarter pace, the USMEF said in a release.

However, some recent events, including temporary closures of several US processing plants, were not reflected in the first quarter export data, the USMEF said.  USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom cautioned that April and May exports could slow as a result, but his outlook for 2020 remains upbeat.




Pork export volume reached 291,459 tonnes, up 79,771 tonnes, or 37.7%, from 211,688 tonnes a year ago and topping the previous record set in December 2019, the USMEF said.

March’s pork export value increased $243.523 million, or 46.8%, to $764.191 million from $520.668 million a year ago, the release said.  Through the first quarter, pork exports increased 40% from a year ago to 838,118 tonnes, valued at $2.23 billion, up 52%.

Pork export value per head slaughtered reached $63.99 in March, up 32% from a year ago, the USMEF said.  The January-March per-head average was $64.66, up 40%.

March exports accounted for 31.6% of total pork production and 28.4% for pork muscle cuts – each up about six percentage points from a year ago, even as March production increased by 12%.

Through the first quarter, exports accounted for 31.4% of total pork production and 28.5% for muscle cuts, up from 24.4% and 21.3%, respectively, in 2019, the release said.  US pork production was up 9% in the first quarter, with industry expansion fueled by strong international demand, especially in several key Asian markets still battling African Swine Fever.

Strong demand from China/Hong Kong continued to drive US pork exports to new heights, but March exports also increased significantly to Mexico, Japan and Canada, the USMEF said.




Driven by solid growth in Japan, where US beef is benefiting from reduced tariffs under the US-Japan Trade Agreement, as well as South Korea, Mexico, Canada and Taiwan, March beef exports totaled 115,308 tonnes, up 7,653 tonnes, or 7.11%, from 107,655 tonnes a year ago, valued at $702.167 million, up $24.131 million, or 3.56%, from $678.036 million and the highest monthly value since July, the release said.

First quarter beef exports climbed 27,3497 tonnes, or 8.92%, to 334,703 tonnes from 307,306 tonnes a year ago, valued at $2.056 billion, up $154 million, or 8.10%, from $1.902 billion.

Beef export value per head of fed slaughter was $308.21 in March, down 8% from the very high March 2019 average, the USMEF said.  For the first quarter, per-head export value increased 2% to $317.06.

March beef exports accounted for 13.9% of total production and 11.3% for beef muscle cuts, down from 14.8% and 12%, respectively, a year ago, the release said.




Cattle traded this week at $95 to $110 per cwt on a live basis, up $1 to $5 from last week’s range.  Dressed-basis trading was seen at $145 to $180 per cwt, down $5 to up $30.

The USDA choice cutout Thursday was up $9.36 per cwt at $458.54, while select was up $16.61 at $448.57.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $9.97 from $17.22 with 66 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Wednesday was $120.39 per cwt, up $0.89.  This compares with Thursday’s May contract settlement of $130.27, up $6.17.