April Pork Exports Largest in Nearly Three Years; Beef Exports Also Trend Higher

April exports of U.S. pork reached the highest volume and value since May 2021, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). It was also a robust month for U.S. beef exports, which were the largest in 10 months and valued at just under $900 million.

Fueled by a record performance in leading market Mexico, pork exports totaled 277,910 metric tons (mt) in April, up 14% from a year ago and the fifth largest on record. Export value climbed 18% to $778.8 million, the third highest on record. For January through April, exports increased 8% to 1.04 million mt, valued at $2.89 billion – up 10% from last year’s record pace.

“While Mexico was definitely the pacesetter in a tremendous month for pork exports, it was only part of the story,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Demand continued to build in South Korea, Central America, Colombia, Australia and the ASEAN, and we saw very encouraging growth in Japan. It was also great to see export value per head above the $70 mark for the second consecutive month.”

April beef exports totaled 111,580 mt, up slightly from a year ago and the largest since June 2023. Export value increased 5% to $898.7 million, also the highest since June. Through the first four months of 2024, beef export value was also up 5% year-over-year to $3.38 billion, despite a 3% decline in volume (423,445 mt).

“Mexico also continued to shine on the beef side, along with the Caribbean, Central America and the Middle East,” Halstrom said. “These markets are benefiting from foodservice demand and currency advantages compared to the main Asian markets. The headwinds in Asia remain formidable, but the tourism boom in Japan has helped solidify demand and exports have stabilized this year, despite the continued weakness in the yen and strong competition from Australia. Robust retail and e-commerce demand has helped U.S. chilled beef continue to dominate in Korea and Taiwan.”

Through April, U.S. beef accounted for 69% of Korea’s chilled imports and 72% for Taiwan.

Record shipments to Mexico bolster April pork exports

Pork exports to Mexico reached new heights in April, climbing 34% from a year ago to a record 107,594 mt, as Mexico’s buying surged following the Easter holiday. Export value soared 61% to $240.5 million – also a record. For January through April, exports to Mexico achieved double-digit growth over last year’s record pace, surging 11% in volume to 388,855 mt and 18% in value to $815.6 million.

Mexico’s domestic pork prices are strong, and poultry and pork production have been impacted by productivity challenges, limiting availability of domestic product at a time of strong demand and economic growth.

South Korea continued to show strong demand for U.S. pork in April, with exports reaching 26,286 mt – up 23% from a year ago and the fourth largest on record. Export value totaled $88.9 million, up 33% and the third largest on record. These results pushed January-April exports to Korea 44% above last year’s pace at 95,738 mt, with value soaring 51% to $316.5 million. As USMEF noted last month, Korea has surpassed Canada as the fourth largest export destination for U.S. pork, trailing only Mexico, China and Japan. U.S. share of Korea’s pork imports has increased from 29.5% last year to 37% in 2024.

April pork exports to Japan were the largest in two years at 34,569 mt, up 3% from a year ago, while value increased 5% to $138.7 million. Through April, exports to Japan remained slightly below last year’s pace at 123,042 mt, with value steady at $496.4 million. While the persistently weak yen continues to weigh on Japan’s demand for imported meat, domestic pork prices jumped in May, up 11% from last year, and inventories of imported pork at the end of April were down almost 15% from a year ago. Japanese customers have also been looking to U.S. pork to offset limited availability from the European Union.

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

  • Led by outstanding results in Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, April pork exports to Central America soared 50% from a year ago to 14,769 mt, the fifth highest on record, while export value jumped 55% to $44.2 million – fourth highest on record. Through April, exports to the region raced to a record pace at 52,450 mt, up 28% from a year ago, with value up 37% to $159.1 million.
  • While down from the red-hot pace established in the first quarter, April pork exports to Colombia still climbed 23% from a year ago to 7,650 mt. Export value was $20.7 million, up 34% from a year ago but the lowest since August. Through April, shipments to Colombia were 44% above last year’s pace at 39,662 mt, with value up 57% to $108.7 million.
  • With substantial growth in both Australia and New Zealand, April pork exports to Oceania totaled 8,950 mt, up 33% from a year ago, while value increased 36% to $31.1 million. Through April, exports to the region more than doubled from a year ago in both volume (37,221 mt, up 107%) and value ($132.9 million, up 103%). Exports to Oceania began regaining momentum in the second quarter of last year, so the market is likely to show smaller year-over-year gains going forward when compared to the strengthening totals posted from April through December 2023.
  • Led by larger shipments to the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, April exports to the ASEAN reached 7,669 mt, up 15% from a year ago, valued at $16.3 million (up 7%). For January through April, exports to the region increased 9% from a year ago to 22,480 mt, though value fell 5% to just under $50 million. Most U.S. pork enters the Philippines at a 25% duty, which is lower than the normal out-of-quota rate of 40%. This reduced rate is set to expire at the end of 2024, but Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is currently weighing a proposal that would extend the rate reduction through 2028.
  • Pork exports to China/Hong Kong trended substantially lower in the first four months of 2024, falling 15% from a year ago to 154,403 mt, while export value declined 23% to $363.7 million. The region is still the largest destination for U.S. pork variety meat, and shipments of these products have declined less rapidly. Through April, pork variety meat exports to China/Hong Kong were down 3% in volume (110,859 mt) and 13% in value ($262.1 million).
  • April pork export value equated to $72.46 per head slaughtered, up 7% from a year ago and the third highest on record. The January-April average was $66.28, also up 7% from a year ago. Exports accounted for 33.3% of total April pork production and 28.8% for muscle cuts only. These ratios were the highest since May 2021 and increased from 32% and 27.7%, respectively, in April 2023. For January through April, exports accounted for 30.7% of total production and 26.5% for muscle cuts, up from 29.1% and 24.9%, respectively, in the first four months of 2023.

Western Hemisphere and Middle Eastern markets drive April beef exports

Bolstered by strong foodservice and retail demand, April beef exports to Mexico climbed 46% from a year ago to 21,031 mt. Export value increased 48% to $120.8 million – the highest since December 2020 and the seventh highest on record. Coming off a strong rebound in 2023, January-April exports to Mexico increased 19% to 77,530 mt, while value jumped 24% to $454.3 million. This included an outstanding performance for beef variety meat exports, which increased 23% from a year ago in volume (40,490 mt) and 16% in value ($108.7 million).

With a severe drought situation and surging imports of corn, Mexico is exporting more feeder cattle to the United States, exporting less beef to the United States and importing more U.S. beef.

Beef exports to the Caribbean continued to shine in April, reaching 2,891 mt – up 47% from a year ago and the fourth largest on record. Export value increased 17% to just under $23 million. January-April exports to the region totaled 11,928 mt, up 24% from a year ago, valued at $99.3 million (up 15%). Beef variety meat exports increased 25% through April to 2,066 mt, valued at $4.8 million (up 22%), led by outstanding growth in Trinidad and Tobago and a continued rebound in shipments to Jamaica, the region’s top destination for beef variety meats.

April beef exports to Japan increased 6% from a year ago in volume (21,028 mt) and 11% in value ($162.9 million). For January through April, shipments to Japan were still down 6% from a year ago at 83,720 mt, but value achieved a 2% increase at $632.7 million. Japan remains the leading value destination for beef variety meat exports, mainly purchasing tongues and skirts. These exports increased 2% through April to 15,042 mt, while value climbed 19% to $162.3 million. Inventories of imported beef at the end of April were down 16% from a year ago and Japan’s purchases of U.S. beef are expected to remain relatively steady, as has been the case through the first four months of the year. The weak yen is a significant challenge, especially when combined with Japan’s high import duties, but there is still demand for grain-fed U.S. beef at retail and foodservice.

Other January-April results for U.S. beef exports include:

  • April exports of beef variety meat jumped 14% from a year ago to 25,242 mt, while value increased 9% to $97.6 million. Through April, variety meat exports increased 4% to 94,661 mt, valued at $367.7 million (up 5%). In addition to the gains achieved in Mexico, the Caribbean and Japan, exports also rebounded from last year’s low levels to Egypt and increased to Peru, Gabon, Chile, Honduras and Morocco.
  • Sharply higher beef muscle cut exports to the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, along with larger variety meat shipments to Egypt, fueled a strong April for U.S. beef in the Middle East. April exports increased 26% to 4,882 mt, valued at $25 million (up 32%). Despite ongoing logistical and economic challenges in the region, January-April exports climbed 37% from a year ago to 19,444 mt, valued at $86.4 million (up 38%), driven by strong foodservice demand and an increase in tourism in areas away from the Red Sea, as well as emerging retail demand.
  • Led by growth in Panama and Honduras, April beef exports to Central America increased 20% from a year ago to 1,784 mt, while value was up 3% to $11.9 million. January-April exports to the region increased 8% in volume (7,492 mt) and 12% in value ($54.4 million) as export volume continued to increase to top market Guatemala and trended higher to Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.
  • April beef exports to Canada totaled 8,247 mt, up just 1% from a year ago, but value climbed 18% to $77.3 million. January-April exports followed a similar trend, increasing 17% in value to $271.6 million despite a slight decline in volume (30,327 mt, down 1%).
  • Beef exports to leading value market Korea trended lower in April, down 20% to 19,929 mt, while export value fell 8% to $186.1 million. Through the first four months of the year, shipments to Korea declined 11% in volume to 78,897 mt, but still climbed 5% in value to $740.1 million. As noted above, the U.S. remains Korea’s dominant supplier of chilled beef, capturing 69% of the imported chilled market.
  • April beef exports to Taiwan fell 4% from a year ago to 5,402 mt, but volume was the highest since August.  April export value achieved a slight increase at $58.8 million. January-April exports to Taiwan fell 14% to 17,514 mt and were down 4% in value to $191.5 million. As also noted above, the U.S. continues to dominate Taiwan’s imports of high-quality chilled beef with 72% market share.
  • While beef exports to China/Hong Kong were down 12% from a year ago at 18,665 mt and value fell 9% to $170 million, exports to China (16,526 mt) were the largest since May 2023.  Through April, exports to the China/Hong Kong declined 9% in volume (69,787 mt) and 4% in value ($639.8 million). Chinese demand for U.S. beef continues on a separate track from that of the massive volumes of grass-fed beef from South America. Although export prices for Brazilian beef have recently fallen by one-third and volumes have soared, China is buying more consistent volumes of U.S. beef, with vast premiums compared to prices paid for competitors’ products.
  • April beef export value equated to $416.87 per head of fed slaughter, down 6% from a year ago, but the January-April average was still up 5% to $410.25. Exports accounted for 14.1% of total April beef production and 11.7% for muscle cuts – down from the high ratios reported a year ago (15.7% and 13.5%, respectively). For January through April, exports accounted for 13.9% of total production and 11.6% of muscle cuts, each down about one-half percentage point from a year ago.

April lamb exports above last year, but lowest of 2024

April exports of U.S. lamb totaled 224 mt, up 33% from a year ago but the lowest since December. Export value was up 21% to $1.25 million. January-April exports increased 1% from a year ago to 1,043 mt, while value climbed an impressive 19% to $5.9 million. Growth was driven primarily by the Caribbean and Mexico, but shipments also increased year-over-year to Canada, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Complete January-April export results for U.S. pork, beef and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics web page.

For questions, please contact Joe Schuele or call 303-547-0030.


  • Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat, unless otherwise noted.
  • One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds.
  • U.S. pork and beef currently face retaliatory duties in China. In February 2020, China announced a duty exclusion process that allows importers to apply for relief from duties imposed in response to U.S. Section 301 duties. When an application is successful, the rate for U.S. beef can decline to the MFN rate of 12% and the rate for U.S. pork can decline to 37% (the MFN rate plus the 25% Section 232 retaliatory duty, which remains in place).