Strong Momentum Continues for U.S. Beef Exports; Pork Exports Trend Lower

Bright spots for January pork exports include Mexico, Korea, Dominican Republic

Last year Mexico reclaimed its position as the leading destination for U.S. pork exports, taking nearly 875,000 mt valued at $1.68 billion. This strong performance continued in January, with exports climbing 36% from a year ago to 87,027 mt, valued at $136.6 million (up 24%). With the tight U.S. labor situation, Mexico is an especially attractive market for bone-in hams for further processing. U.S. pork also continues to make impressive strides in Mexico’s retail and foodservice sectors.

While January pork exports to South Korea declined slightly year-over-year (15,729 mt, down 1%), the upward trend in value continued as export value reached $58.4 million (up 30% and the highest since May). Korea is importing larger volumes of chilled pork from the U.S. and Canada – its two largest chilled suppliers – and the U.S. industry continues to capitalize on Koreans’ growing demand for home meal replacement items and other convenience-based products.

With strong consumer demand in the Dominican Republic and domestic pork production challenged by African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks, pork exports to the DR reached new heights in 2021 and made a strong showing in January, climbing 23% in volume (6,408 mt, the second highest on record) and 17% in value ($14.2 million). Exports also increased to the Bahamas and the Leeward-Windward Islands, pushing January exports to the Caribbean 17% higher year-over-year to 7,473 mt, valued at $17.9 million (up 16%).

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

  • Exports to China/Hong Kong were in line with USMEF’s projections, but dropped significantly from a year ago in both volume (35,456 mt, down 53%) and value ($97.7 million, down 44%). This region remains the dominant destination for U.S. pork variety meat and while January variety meat exports were down 13% to 21,332 mt, export value still climbed 7% to $62 million.
  • January exports to Japan dipped 18% from a year ago to 26,452 mt, with value down 12% to $118.7 million. The decline was due in part to shipping challenges, and the volume of ground seasoned pork shipped to Japan was also impacted by a price gap between U.S. and European product.
  • While pork exports trended lower to Central America, shipments to Costa Rica increased 12% from a year ago in volume (1,201 mt) and 2% in value ($34.1 million). Exports to El Salvador jumped 20% to 1,034 mt, valued at $29.9 million (up 36%).
  • January shipments of U.S. pork variety meat declined 13% from a year ago to 35,121 mt, but exports still gained 2% in value ($93.6 million). In addition to the increase posted in China/Hong Kong, variety meat export value was also higher year-over-year to Canada, Japan, Korea, the DR and Central America.
  • January pork export value equated to $53.37 per head slaughtered, down 7% from a year ago. Exports accounted for 25.5% of total pork production and 22.8% for muscle cuts, each down about 2.5 percentage points from a year ago.