Rapid Start for 2024 Pork Exports; Beef Export Value Above Year-Ago

Mar 11, 2024

U.S. pork exports raced to a great start in 2024, according to January data released by USDA and compiled by USMEF. While January beef exports were slightly below last year’s volume, export value trended significantly higher. Lamb exports were also strong in January, posting the highest value in more than four years.   

Although January pork exports were led by another powerful performance in leading market Mexico, U.S. pork continued to make gains in a wide range of Western Hemisphere and Asia-Pacific destinations. Pork exports totaled 251,424 metric tons (mt) in January, up 6% from a year ago, while export value also increased 6% to $682.1 million.

“Mexico’s demand for U.S. pork is so spectacular that it tends to overshadow other great success stories,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “It is especially gratifying to see other markets following the trail blazed by Mexico, as purchases expand beyond raw material for further processing to include center-of-the-plate cuts, including loins, which are gaining popularity at retail and foodservice.”

January beef exports totaled 99,764 mt, down 1% from a year ago. But export value climbed 9% to $763.8 million, as value trended higher year-over-year to South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Central America, the Caribbean and Hong Kong.

“While USMEF expects 2024 to be another challenging year in terms of beef supply availability, the upward trend in export value is a positive sign,” Halstrom said. “The inventory has been cleared and customers in Asia are reloading on U.S. beef. There is also more optimism in Asia’s foodservice sector, especially in Korea. Combined with the recent strength we’ve seen in the Western Hemisphere, this bodes well for beef demand in the coming year. January was also an excellent month for beef variety meat exports, which are especially important for maximizing the value of every animal.” 

Despite lower shipments to leading market Honduras, January pork exports to Central America jumped 22% from a year ago to 11,846 mt, while value increased 29% to $35.7 million. Exports climbed significantly year-over-year to Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. 

Other January results for U.S. pork exports include:

  • Led by outstanding growth in Colombia, January pork exports to South America climbed 53% from a year ago to 11,464 mt, valued at $32.1 million (up 62%). Exports to Colombia have rebounded strongly since October 2023 and have held above 10,000 mt for each of the last four months. January shipments to Colombia increased 57% to 10,448 mt, while value soared 70% to $28.1 million. Exports to Chile increased 22% to 692 mt, valued at $2.7 million (up 26%), while shipments to Peru were up 49% in volume (122 mt) and 19% in value ($215,000).

  • Exports of U.S. pork variety meat, which were record-large in 2023, continued to perform well in January. Despite trending lower to leading destination China, variety meat shipments increased 7% from a year ago to 50,353 mt, valued at $109.3 million (down 1%). Exports increased to Mexico, the Philippines, Canada, Central and South America and Korea.

  •  Pork exports to Australia, which rebounded dramatically in 2023, continued to build momentum in January. Exports more than quadrupled from last January’s low volume, jumping 374% to 9,059 mt. Export value increased 363% to $32.8 million. U.S. pork has also retaken share from the EU in the Australian market.

  •  Exports to Malaysia, which were record-large in 2023, continued to show strength in January. Shipments were nearly 1000% larger than a year ago at 503 mt, while value increased 850% to $1.5 million.

  •  January pork shipments to Japan were the largest since August, but were down slightly year-over-year in both volume (28,216, down 1%) and value ($114.8 million, down 1%). U.S. pork faces intense competition from Canadian and Mexican chilled pork and from defrosted Spanish pork being sold at retail. The weak Japanese yen continues to cause customers to seek out the most affordable options, including Brazilian pork.

  • Pork export value equated to $60.00 per head slaughtered in January, up 4% from a year ago. Exports accounted for 28.3% of total January pork production and 24.3% for muscle cuts. These ratios were each up about one percentage point from a year ago.

Beef exports to Mexico continued to strengthen in January, increasing 15% from a year ago to 20,111 mt – the second largest since 2020 following exports of 21,325 mt in December 2023. January export value jumped 19% to $112.9 million. This was the highest value since 2020. Beef supplies remain tight in Mexico as it exports more feeder cattle to the U.S., imports more beef from the U.S. and exports less beef to the U.S.

U.S. beef exports to the Middle East struggled mightily in 2023 primarily due to a slowdown in beef liver shipments to Egypt, but have showed signs of a rebound the past two months. January exports jumped 68% compared to the low year-ago totals, reaching 4,869 mt, while value increased 73% to $19 million. Exports to Egypt, the largest destination for U.S. beef livers, increased 58% to 3,627 mt valued at $5.5 million (up 33%). Exports also increased significantly to the United Arab Emirates (468 mt,  up 105%), Kuwait (296 mt,  up 658%) and Qatar (265 mt, up 597%), nearly all of which were beef muscle cuts. January exports to both Kuwait and Qatar were the highest since 2022. 


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