Beef Exports Rebound in May; Volume and Value Reach 2019 Highs

US - May exports of US beef were steady with last year’s strong volumes and increased year-over-year in value, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
calendar icon 9 July 2019
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May beef exports were also steady year-over-year in volume (117,541 mt) while export value increased 1 percent to $727.6 million – the second-highest on record, trailing only the August 2018 total of $751.7 million. For January through May, exports were 3 percent below last year’s record pace in volume (530,088 mt) but only slightly lower in value at $3.3 billion.

Beef export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $312.85 in May, down slightly from a year ago. For January through May, beef export value averaged $309.33 per head, down 3 percent. May exports accounted for 14.6 percent of total US beef production and 12 percent for muscle cuts only, each down slightly from a year ago.

For January through May, exports accounted for 14 percent of total production and 11.3 percent for muscle cuts – down from 14.6 percent and 11.9 percent, respectively, a year ago.

(Please note: due to a calculation error, the percentage of beef production exported was incorrectly reported from January 2017 through April 2019. These ratios have now been corrected, and are about 1.1 percentage points higher than originally reported.)

Korea, Taiwan lead strong month for beef exports

Beef exports to South Korea remained on a record pace in May, climbing 11 percent to 23,004 mt and 13 percent in value to $165 million. January-May exports to Korea were 11 percent above last year in volume (101,761 mt) and 15 percent higher in value ($743.5 million). With continued growth at retail and foodservice, US share of Korea’s chilled beef imports reached a post-BSE high of 61 percent, up from 57 percent last year and 52 percent in 2017. Chilled beef from the US totaled 22,268 mt, up 8 percent year-over-year, valued at $224 million, up 12 percent.

Following a fairly steady first quarter, beef exports to Taiwan strengthened for the second straight month in May at 5,873 mt (up 27 percent from a year ago), valued at $52.6 million (up 28 percent). Through May, exports to Taiwan were 11 percent above last year’s record pace in volume (24,478 mt) and 4 percent higher in value ($218.2 million).

Though slightly below last year’s level, May export volume to leading market Japan rebounded to 29,749 mt, while value was down 3 percent to $190.8 million. Export volume through May was steady with last year’s pace at 128,045 mt while value increased 1 percent to $828 million. This performance was driven in part by a large increase in beef variety meat exports (mainly tongues and skirts), which jumped 23 percent in volume (24,135 mt) and 20 percent in value ($157.5 million).

Despite the tariff disadvantages, US beef’s share of Japan’s imports has held nearly steady this year at 41 percent, but with a level playing field there are tremendous opportunities for growth. For example, Japan’s imports of Canadian and Mexican beef increased by 76 percent and 39 percent, respectively, through May.

"The explosive growth US beef has achieved in Korea and Taiwan is a testament to the quality of the product and the outstanding customer base the US industry has established over the years," said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. "That same dynamic is present in Japan, on an even larger scale. But for Japan to remain the 'strong growth' column, it is essential that we have market access comparable to our key competitors."

Other January-May highlights for US beef include:

  • South America is the leading tonnage growth market for US pork in 2019 as continued growth in Colombia and Chile pushed exports 40 percent above last year’s record pace in volume (71,240 mt) and 37 percent higher in value ($171.8 million). Exports to Peru cooled in May but remain significantly higher year-over-year.

  • Exports to Oceania continue to climb, increasing 45 percent in volume (52,502 mt) and 30 percent in value ($138.7 million) from a year ago. Australia is one of US pork’s top-performing markets in 2019, with volume up 45 percent from last year’s record pace to 48,110 mt and value increasing 29 percent to $125.4 million. US share of Australia’s imports climbed to 52 percent, compared to 45 percent last year. Exports to New Zealand were also significantly higher in both volume (4,392 mt, up 43 percent) and value ($13.3 million, up 33 percent).

  • Also coming off a record year in 2018, exports to Central America climbed 11 percent in both volume (37,416 mt) and value ($88.2 million). While exports to leading market Honduras were up slightly from a year ago, double-digit growth was achieved in Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

  • While pork exports to Taiwan slowed in May, January-May volume still increased 60 percent from a year ago to 9,972 mt while value was up 44 percent to $22 million.

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