According to data released by USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), June pork exports reached 212,887 metric tons (mt), up 11% year-on-year, valued at $569.2m, up 12%. For the first half of 2019, pork exports remained 2% below last year in volume (1.25m mt) and were down 6% in value to $3.14bn.
The growth was attributed to the 20% retaliatory duty on most US pork exports to Mexico being removed as the US, Mexico and Canada reached an agreement on steel and aluminum tariffs. Entering Mexico duty-free for the first time in nearly a year, June exports to Mexico were the largest since January at 59,837 mt, while value climbed 13% to $119m, the highest since April 2018.
"It's a tremendous relief to have Mexico's retaliatory duties on US pork behind us, as the June bump in export value clearly illustrates," said USMEF president and CEO Dan Halstrom. "Now the goal is to get back to the record-setting trend the US industry established in Mexico from 2012 through 2017, prior to the metal tariff dispute. USMEF's marketing programs have ramped up in Mexico so that we can recapture lost market share and regain momentum in this critical market for US pork."
Despite retaliatory duties remaining in place, June also saw a rise in pork exports to China, which were the largest in more than three years at 41,704 mt (up 123% year-on-year), valued at $88.5m (up 77%). This pushed first-half exports to China 23% ahead of last year in volume (177,060 mt) and 3% higher in value ($353.1m). For the China/Hong Kong region, first-half exports were up 4% to 224,009 mt but value declined 16% to $427.8m.
This growth in exports to China was reserved for the US, through May, EU exports to the region were 859,030 mt, up 27% year-over-year, valued at $1.57bn (up 34%). China/Hong Kong has accounted for 52% of EU export volume in 2019, compared to 18% of US exports.
The rise in US exports is also quite timely given all of its pork and beef's major competitors gained tariff relief in Japan this year through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the economic partnership agreement between Japan and the European Union, making red meat trade a major focus of the US-Japan trade agreement negotiations.
Japan is the leading value destination for US pork, and June exports were steady with last year in both volume (31,742 mt) and value ($131.5m). For the first half of the year, exports to Japan were 4% below last year's pace in volume (191,281 mt) and down 6% in value ($773.5m).