Exports of U.S. beef, pork and lamb closed 2013 on a mixed note. Beef exports eclipsed the $6 billion mark for the first time, setting a new annual value record. At the same time, pork exports declined below 2012's record highs while lamb sales rose in value on lower volumes according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Beef exports continued their surge in December, surpassing year-ago totals by nearly 13 percent in volume and 20 percent in value led by growth in sales to Japan, Mexico, Hong Kong and Central/South America. Totals for 2013 were up three percent in volume to 1.17 million metric tons (mt) and 12 percent in value ($6.157 billion) — breaking the 2012 value record.
Pork exports exceeded $6 billion for the third consecutive year, but declined 5 percent in volume and four percent in value behind 2012's record pace, finishing at 2.14 million mt valued at $6.05 billion. Mexico, Central/South America and the ASEAN region posted strong results in December to bring the month's totals up slightly from year-ago levels.
U.S. lamb exports closed with double-digit increases in volume and value in December to finish the year up seven percent in value ($28.1 million) on six percent lower volume (12,332 mt). Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean continue to be the top lamb export markets.
"2013 presented a new set of challenges," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "Last year, the closure of the Russian market to U.S. red meat products and our continued absence from the dynamic beef market in the People's Republic of China stand out. And there were challenges in other markets, ranging from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia. The industry is focused on these challenges and USMEF is targeting the markets where we have the best chance of succeeding and creating a positive return for American producers and exporters."
The new milestone for U.S. beef export value also meant new records for the average export value per head: an annual record of $244.96 per head of fed slaughter, up $28.23 from 2012 and a new monthly record in December at $279.16, up $36.52 from December 2012.
U.S. beef exports in 2013 equated to 13.2 percent of total beef production (muscle cuts plus variety meat) and 10.4 percent of muscle cuts alone, up from 12.7 and 9.8 percent last year. The totals trended up in December, reaching 14.5 percent and 12 percent, respectively.
Beef sales to Japan closed the year up 54 percent in volume (234,615 mt) and 35 percent in value ($1.389 billion), pushed by a strong December showing that was more than 75 percent ahead of last year's volume totals and 45 percent higher in value.
Value totals for the year were just shy of 2003's pre-BSE mark of $1.391 billion, although volume was just 62.5 percent of the 2003 total. Based on Japan's import data, U.S. market share increased from 26 percent in 2012 to 36 percent in 2013, mainly regaining share from Australia.
Beef exports to Hong Kong set a new annual record as volume doubled to 130,017 mt and value increased 142 percent to $823.3 million. Central/South America also set new milestones with 42,104 mt (up 24 percent) valued at $156.4 million (up 17 percent).
Mexico's one-month beef import total of 24,402 mt (up 69 percent) was the largest volume to that country since December of 2009, helping push sales to the No. 2 U.S. beef export market to 216,386 mt (up 12 percent) valued at $925.3 million (up 13 percent).
Strong international competition in the highest value pork export market — Japan — helped drive down U.S. pork sales there for the year by seven percent in volume and five percent in value (424,858 mt valued at $1.89 billion). This is the second consecutive year of lower volumes, with declines totaling 68,455 metric tons (14 percent) since 2011. The lost volume to Japan alone is roughly equal to New Zealand's total pork consumption.
"There is no question that Japan is the No. 1 target for every pork exporting nation," said Seng. "While the U.S. has enjoyed a dominant share of the pork import market there in recent years, our competitors are working tirelessly to increase their visibility and market share."
Mexico set a new monthly record for December with 64,818 mt of U.S. pork (up 28 percent) purchased for $133.3 million (up 34 percent). For the year, Mexico remained the top export market in volume (625,475 mt, up four percent) while export value to Mexico ($1.22 billion, up eight percent) trailed only Japan. Mexico registered new record high imports for the second consecutive year.
Central/South American continued its upward trend, setting new sales records paced by strong growth in sales to Colombia, Chile and Honduras. The region closed the year up 34 percent in both volume and value at 121,413 mt valued at $305.7 million.
The ASEAN region broke its 2010 record for U.S. pork purchases, reaching 69,667 mt (up 39 percent) valued at $162.5 million (up 33 percent), driven by strong performances in the Philippines and Singapore.
For the month of December alone, export volumes to South Korea (12,902 mt) and Australia/New Zealand (6,552 mt) were the highest of the year, showing positive momentum going into 2014.
For the year, pork export value averaged $53.95 per head – down about three percent from 2012. Exports accounted for 26 percent of total pork and variety meat production (22 percent for just muscle cuts). These ratios were similar to 2012.
All three top lamb export markets (Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean) were up in volume and value for December. Mexico closed the year up two percent in value ($14.2 million) on 14 percent lower volumes (8,654 mt). Canada was up 60 percent in volume (2,497 mt) and 37 percent in value ($6 million), while the Caribbean closed down 41 percent in volume (552 mt) and 14 percent in value ($4.1 million).
Year-end totals for all markets were up seven percent in value ($28.1 million) on 6 percent lower volumes (12,332 mt).
Complete export results are available on the USMEF statistics webpage.