January Beef, Pork Exports Gain Over 2015 but Values Down

Exports of U.S. beef and pork held their own in January over a year ago, showing modestly-higher movement, but reaping less value. The export value for both beef and pork declined, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The data, compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), showed that beef exports rose 3% from a year ago January to 82,301 metric tons (mt). Value, however, was down 13% to $438.1 million.

Exports to most Asian markets increased in January, but these gains were largely offset by lower volumes shipped to Western Hemisphere markets and the Middle East. Asian exports were hindered early last year by the West Coast port labor impasse. January exports accounted for 12% of total beef production and 9% for muscle cuts only (steady with January 2015). Export value per head of fed slaughter was $239.88, down 11% from a year ago.

 Beef exports to Japan Strong

Beef exports to Japan were the largest in six months at 16,762 mt, up 21% from a year ago, while export value edged 2% higher to $93.2 million. Exports to South Korea and Taiwan, which were bright spots for U.S. beef in 2015, were also above year-ago levels. Korea took 11,263 mt (+59%) valued at $67.2 million (+17%).

Export volume to Taiwan was 2,890 mt (+35%) valued at $24.1 million (+3%). Led by a strong month in the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, exports to the ASEAN region increased 71% in volume (1,638 mt) and 9% in value ($9.7 million). Exports to Hong Kong were up 19% (10,254 mt), although value declined 16% ($58.4 million).

Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO, is encouraged to see beef exports to Asian markets above year-ago levels. He said there is still a tariff gap in Japan compared to Australian beef. But Australia’s recent production slowdown presents an opportunity to reclaim market share. U.S. beef also is capitalizing on the tight domestic supplies in Korea.

Beef exports to Mexico were severely challenged in recent months by the weakening peso, and January exports were the lowest since May 2013 at 15,247 mt (-25%). Export value dropped 35% to $68.8 million. Exports were also significantly lower to Canada (9,144 mt, -11%, valued at $54.8 million, -26%). Central and South America were the bright spots in the Western Hemisphere, driven by growth to Chile (913 mt, +30%) and Guatemala (404 mt, +13%). Exports to Egypt fell 11% in volume to 7,367 mt and 23% in value to $9.9 million.

Pork Exports Up 4% From Year-Ago

Pork exports were up 4% from last January to 167,010 mt, but value fell 11% to $404.7 million. Exports to China were up significantly from last year’s low volumes, reflecting recent reinstatement of several U.S. plants and continued strong demand for imported pork in China.

Volumes also increased for Central and South America, the Caribbean and Oceania. January exports accounted for 22% of total pork production and 19% for muscle cuts only (up from 21 and 17%, respectively, last year). Export value per head slaughtered was $41.53, down 11% from a year ago.

U.S. pork exports to China/Hong Kong maintained the stronger pace established in October, with January volume up 84% from a year ago to 32,609 mt and value increasing 50% to $64.2 million. Pork exports to Korea performed well in 2015, but slowed in the second half. That trend continued in January, as exports fell 20% in volume (12,192 mt) and 41% in value ($30.5 million).

Cash Cattle Trade

Cash cattle markets were sluggish to a standstill in all major regions, according to the USDA Market News Service. Live sales were $136 in the Southern Plains and Nebraska last week with some sales at $137 in Colorado. A few dressed sales in Nebraska sold at $214.

The USDA reported its choice cutout price at $223.82, up $3.57. Select was down 0.91 at $213.64. The choice/select spread widened to $10.18 from $5.18. There were 191 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market. The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Tuesday was $159.66, up 0.48. This compares with Mar’s Wednesday settlement of $159.05, up 0.75.