USMEF: April pork exports largest in nearly three years

April exports of U.S. pork reached the highest volume and value since May 2021, according to data released by USDA and compiled by 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.

Posted on Jun 11 ,00:10

USMEF: April pork exports largest in nearly three years

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".

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.

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