According to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), August pork exports increased 22% from a year ago to 221,586 metric tons (mt), while export value climbed 19% to $588.8m.
China/Hong Kong was the largest destination for US pork in August at 63,656mt, more than tripling the August 2018 volume, while export value climbed 160% to $137.6m.
Since Mexico removed the 20% retaliatory duty on US pork in late May, exports have rebounded but are still trailing the record-large numbers posted in 2017. August exports to Mexico were down 1% year-over-year in volume (61,365 mt), but value increased 18% to $121.1m.
“China’s demand for imported pork has increased steadily over the past few months and the US industry is well-positioned to help fill that need,” said USMEF president and CEO Dan Halstrom. “But the really positive story behind these numbers is that even as US exports to China/Hong Kong have surged and exports to Mexico rebounded after the removal of retaliatory duties, demand in other markets is proving resilient and continues to grow. This is exactly why the US industry invested in emerging markets over the years, and it is definitely paying dividends.”
Future pork prospects
US and Japan’s recently announced agreement to bring tariffs on US pork in line with those imposed on major competitors are expected to boost exports to that region. And given August exports to Japan were down 19% and 18% in volume and value terms respectively, this probably can’t come into effect soon enough.
African Swine Fever has also impacted pork production in Southeast Asia, especially in Vietnam but also recently spreading into the Philippines. While US exports to the ASEAN trailed last year’s pace by 10% in volume (35,164 mt) and 19% in value ($81.1m), the region’s need for imported pork is likely to trend higher in coming months.
Beef sector awaiting tariff relief
Beef was a different story - August exports totaled 114,119 mt, a 4% decline from last year’s large volume, while export value ($690.3 million) was down 8%.
An evident drop was seen in Korea, exports slowed 9% from a year ago in August to 22,307 mt, while value dropped 11% to $157.4m. Similar to pork, the US beef industry looks forward to gaining tariff relief in leading market Japan, where August exports slipped 15% from a year ago to 28,646 mt. Value was down 22% to $164.3m.
“The US beef industry is extremely excited at the prospect of lower tariffs in Japan, as 38.5% is the highest rate assessed in any major market,” Halstrom said. “As we’ve seen in Korea, where the tariff rate was once 40% but has been reduced by more than half, lower tariffs make US beef even more affordable for a wider range of customers. While the agreement still needs parliamentary approval in Japan, importers are already enthused and preparing for long-awaited tariff relief.”