Following a record-breaking March performance, exports of U.S. beef and pork continued to build momentum in April, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
“Looking back at April 2020, it was a difficult month for red meat exports as we began to see COVID-related supply chain interruptions and foodservice demand took a major hit in many key markets,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “While it is no surprise that exports performed much better in April 2021, we are pleased to see that global demand continued to build on the broad-based growth achieved in March.”
April exports of U.S. beef set another new value record at $808.3 million, up 35% from a year ago, with export volume reaching 121,050 metric tons (mt) – up 23% year-over-year and the fifth largest on record. For beef muscle cuts, exports were the third largest ever at 94,656 mt (up 21%), valued at a record $726.7 million (up 36%). April beef exports to South Korea increased 21% from a year ago to 23,482 mt, and just missed setting a new value record at $182.7 million. Beef exports to China continued to soar in April, reaching a record 17,233 mt (up from just 1,367 mt a year ago). Export value to China was $130.6 million – up from $11.5 million. Beef export value per head of fed slaughter reached a new monthly high in April at $367.45.
For January through April, beef exports moved 5% ahead of last year’s pace at 454,398 mt, with value up 10% to $2.93 billion. Beef muscle cut exports were up 8% to 357,570 mt, valued at $2.63 billion (up 12%).
Pork exports were the sixth largest on record in April at 269,918 mt, up 2% from a year ago. Export value was $749.2 million, up 10% and the fourth highest on record. Pork muscle cuts followed a similar trajectory, increasing 3% in volume (224,179 mt) and 10% in value ($641.7 million). April pork exports to Mexico were the largest of 2021 at 67,365 mt, up 58% from a year ago, with value more than doubling to $143.4 million (up 126%). Led by strong demand across a range of markets, Central America continued to be a growth leader for U.S. pork in April, with exports up 56% from a year ago to 10,911 mt, valued at $29.7 million (up 74%). Pork exports to the Philippines soared again in April to 14,296 mt (up from 2,326 mt a year ago), bolstered in part by temporary tariff rate reductions that took effect April 17. April export value to the Philippines was $37.1 million, up from $6.2 million in April 2020.
For January through April, pork exports were 5% below last year at 1.05 million mt, valued at $2.82 billion (down 3%). Pork muscle cut exports were down 5% to 883,599 mt, valued at $2.43 billion (down 4%).
April exports of U.S. lamb totaled 1,088 mt, up 38% from a year ago, with value up 57% to $1.35 million. Through April, lamb exports were 57% above last year’s pace at 4,356 mt, valued at $5.6 million (up 6%).
Halstrom cautioned that the COVID-19 pandemic is still a major concern for the U.S. meat industry, adding uncertainty to the business climate in many export destinations. Logistical challenges, including container shortages and ongoing vessel congestion at many U.S. ports, also present significant obstacles for red meat exports.
“While conditions are improving in many key markets, the COVID impact is the most intense it has ever been in Taiwan and heightened countermeasures are also in place in Japan and other Asian countries,” he explained. “But foodservice activity is climbing back in our Latin American markets and retail demand – both in traditional settings and in e-commerce – has been outstanding and USMEF continues to find innovative ways for the U.S. industry to capitalize on these opportunities. We are also working with ag industry partners and regulatory agencies to find ways to improve the flow of outbound cargo, which is essential to maintaining export growth.”
A detailed summary of January-April red meat export results, including market-specific highlights, is available from the USMEF website.