U.S. beef and pork export volumes trended lower in November, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
However, the cumulative 2014 volume totals were still higher year-over-year, with January-November beef exports up 2% to 1.1 million metric tons. Pork exports were also 2% higher at just under 2 million mt.
With December totals still to be recorded, beef exports already set a new full-year value record of $6.49 billion. Pork export value through November ($6.13 billion, up 11%) is on pace to break the 2012 record and already exceeds the 2013 year-end total.
While the first 11 months of 2014 reflect a "very solid" performance for U.S. beef and pork, exports face heightening economic challenges in leading markets in the coming year, said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng.
"Demand for U.S. beef and pork remains strong, as international buyers appreciate the unmatched quality and consistency of our products," he said. "But lower slaughter numbers reduced 2014 supplies, which obviously had an impact on prices, and in recent months buying power in many key markets has been affected by slowing economic growth and weaker currencies.
"Market access restrictions in several important markets, including China and Russia, also had a big impact on opportunities for U.S. exports last year. The outlook for 2015 is for more of the same, but our industry has proven its ability to identify and develop export outlets in difficult times. When I look across the world as a whole, I still see good potential for further expansion of red meat exports in 2015."
November results were mixed for beef exports, with volume down 5% from a year ago to 96,348 mt, while value was 19% higher at $626.7 million. November pork exports were down 13% in volume (168,062 mt) and 6% in value ($519.9 million).
Beef exports charge ahead
November beef exports equated to 15% of total production and 12% of muscle cut production, compared to 14% and 11%, respectively, a year ago.
For January through November, exports equated to 14% of total production and 11% for muscle cuts (up from 13% and 10%). Export value per head of fed slaughter was $359.77 in November (up 35% from a year ago) and $293.96 for January-November (up 16%).
November exports to leading market Japan were the smallest since March at 18,449 mt – reflecting a seasonal slowdown – but export value ($136.5 million) was still up 35%. January-November exports increased 3% in volume (225,328 mt) and 13% in value ($1.47 billion) as U.S. beef continued to reclaim market share in Japan.
Pork slows in Mexico, Japan
November pork exports equated to 25% of total production and 20% of muscle cut production – down from 26% and 22% a year ago.
For January through November, exports equated to 27% of total production (up from 25.5%) and 22% for muscle cuts (up from 21%). Export value per head slaughtered was $58.99 in November (up 3% from a year ago) and $63.21 for January-November (up 17%).
Exports to leading volume market Mexico slowed in November (53,433 mt, down 9%) but January-November volume still reached 617,034 mt, up 10% from a year ago. Export value was 2% lower in November ($121.8 million) but still up 31% year-over-year to a record $1.42 billion.
Pork muscle cut exports to Japan were down 22% in November (25,901 mt) and fell 19% in value ($120.3 million). For January-November, muscle cut exports to Japan were down 6% in volume (354,239 mt) and 2% in value to $1.66 billion.
The Japanese market has been greatly impacted by an influx of pork from the European Union, which has been locked out of its top market, Russia, since January 2014. Data from Japan show that pork/pork variety meat imports from the EU increased 42% through November, reflecting lower prices resulting from the impasse with Russia.