US meat exports volumes remained sluggish in September, but an increase in value meant that revenues for the third quarter remained ahead of last year’s record figures, according to USDA statistics.
Total US pork exports were up slightly to 183,853 tonnes (t) in September, while export value declined 6% to $505m. However, for January to September, pork exports were up 2% to 1.657 million tonnes (mt) and revenues were up 6% to $4.6bn compared to the same period last year.
Beef exports saw a bigger drop in export volumes, which were down 17% to 90,538mt in September, while value dropped 4% to $442.8m. In the January to September period, however, value was up 2% on last year’s record level despite volumes falling 12% to 50,439mt.
“We are definitely in a challenging economic environment, which is making it difficult to match last year’s export volumes,” said Philip Seng, president and CEO of the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
“But our products continue to command an excellent price in international markets and provide substantial returns to US producers, which is critically important at a time when they face extremely high production costs.”
Looking at performance in individual markets, pork exports to Mexico increased by 24% in volume and 7% in value in September, with growth over the year of 15% volume and 11% value. Japan export value was also up 4% for the first nine months of 2012, although volumes declined by 6%. Exports to emerging markets in Central and South America and the China/Hong Kong region saw significant increases in terms of both volume and value.
For beef, exports to Japan surged nearly 25% in September, and 23% over the year, despite static volumes. An expanded tariff-rate quota meant that beef exports to Russia also saw good growth, up 8% in volume and 24% in value year-on-year in the January to September period. As with pork, beef exports to emerging markets in Central and South America saw significant growth, increasing by 36% in volume and 72% in value.
A weak peso and slow Mexican economy meant September’s beef exports to Mexico were significantly behind last year’s level, falling by 21% in volume and 12% in value.
US lamb exports dropped by 6% in September, but held their value at $2.3m. High prices, a struggling global economy and lack of market access hit lamb exports hard in the January to September period, with a 30% decrease in volume and a 16% decrease in value.
USMEF said its board of directors adopted a resolution last week “urging the US government to make access for US lamb a higher priority in trade negotiations”.