... First quarter pork exports fell 20%...



Pork Exports Improve but Remain Below Last Year’s Record Totals


Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF)

May 5, 2022 


March pork exports were the largest so far this year but well below the record-large totals posted in March 2021.


March pork exports were 222,581 mt, the largest since November but nearly 25% below the record volume achieved a year ago. Export value was $615.3 million, also the highest since November but down 23% year-over-year. First quarter pork exports fell 20% from a year ago to 629,928 mt, valued at $1.71 billion (down 17%).


“While pork exports were down significantly from last year’s record, we saw some encouraging trends in the March results,” USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom explained. “U.S. pork commanded a higher price per pound than a year ago, with outstanding demand from Mexico and value growth in key markets such as South Korea and the Dominican Republic. The stronger U.S. dollar creates more price pressure in some destinations, but this will be offset to some degree by the narrowing price gap between U.S. and European pork.”


Halstrom added that pork, beef and lamb exporters continue to face logistical obstacles and delays when moving product overseas. The situation is especially challenging for chilled meat shipments to key Asian markets.


Pork export surge to Mexico continues; DR and Honduras also strong in March


Following a record year in 2021, pork exports to Mexico continue to climb to new heights. March exports reached 82,348 mt, up 24% from a year ago, with value increasing 14% to $149 million. First quarter exports to Mexico soared 30% to 243,314 mt, valued at $404.2 million (up 17%). While a large percentage of U.S. pork shipments to Mexico are bone-in hams and other cuts destined for further processing, the U.S. industry has also made impressive gains in Mexico’s retail and foodservice sectors.


Demand for U.S. pork continues to strengthen in the Dominican Republic, where domestic production has slowed due to the presence of African swine fever. March exports increased 7% from a year ago to a record 7,038 mt, valued at $17.9 million (up 15%). First quarter exports to the DR also increased 7% to 22,416 mt, with value up 12% to $45.6 million. With shipments also trending higher to the Bahamas and Leeward-Winward Islands, first quarter exports to the Caribbean increased 5% in volume (22,416 mt) and 15% in value ($59 million).


March exports to Honduras, the largest Central American destination for U.S. pork, were the second largest on record at 5,487 mt, up 3% from a year ago, with value steady at $11.4 million. First quarter exports to Honduras were still down 6% in both volume (12,024 mt) and value ($25.1 million). Exports to Central America remained relatively strong in the first quarter but were below last year’s record pace by 14% in volume (30,729 mt) and 9% in value ($81.9 million) as importers built inventories in the fourth quarter of last year.


Other first quarter results for U.S. pork exports include:


·         Pork exports to South Korea continue to trend higher in value, increasing 14% from a year ago to $154.4 million, driven in part by strong retail demand for convenience-based items and chilled pork cuts. Export volume to Korea fell 6% from a year ago to 43,950 mt. Korea’s first quarter imports of chilled U.S. pork were up 29% in volume (2,642 mt) and climbed 57% in value to $18.3 million.

·         As anticipated, first quarter exports to China/Hong Kong dropped significantly from a year ago in both volume (104,286 mt, down 56%) and value ($279.2 million, down 48%). The region is still the dominant destination for U.S. pork variety meat, although demand for these items slowed in the first quarter 2022. China’s zero-COVID policies have added tremendous costs and in some cases led to restricted sales of imported cold chain food, affecting pork shipments from all foreign suppliers. While demand for U.S. pork variety meat remains strong, barriers in the market have worsened in 2022. First quarter variety meat exports to China/Hong Kong were down 16% from a year ago to 62,742 mt, but export value still increased 2% to $178.9 million.

·         Global exports of U.S. pork variety meat followed a trend similar to China/Hong Kong, increasing 1% in value ($282 million) despite a 12% decline in volume (107,859 mt). Impressive year-over-year gains in Canada, Japan, Colombia, Central America and the Dominican Republic helped offset lower shipments to Mexico and the ASEAN region. The labor situation in U.S. plants has generally improved but is still a limiting factor for variety meat capture and export, along with the logistical constraints.

·         Following a strong performance in February, pork exports to Japan were disappointing in March – falling significantly from the large totals achieved a year ago. For the first quarter, exports to Japan were down 13% to 91,234 mt, valued at $392.5 million (down 10%). Logistical issues continue to impact the market, but Japan reported relatively strong imports of U.S. chilled pork in March (20,260 mt, up 2% and the most since April 2021). Dramatic devaluation of the yen did not have a big impact on first quarter results but shifted the demand structure in April and May.

·         March pork export value equated to $54.70 per head slaughtered, down 19% from a year ago. The first quarter average was $54.18 per head, down 10%. Exports accounted for 25.2% of total March pork production and 22.4% for muscle cuts, each down sharply from the very high ratios (32.2% and 29.1%, respectively) seen in March 2021. For the first quarter, exports accounted for 25.4% of total production and 22.6% for muscle cuts, down from 28.7% and 25.8%, respectively, in 2021.


Korea emerges as top destination for U.S. beef, but Q1 growth broad-based …


Caribbean rebound, Mexico growth bolster March lamb exports …


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