March exports of U.S. beef were down in volume from a year ago but edged slightly higher in value, while pork exports slumped on lower results in several mainstay markets, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
March beef export volume of 83,612 metric tons was down 7% from a year ago but export value ($440.7 million) was slightly higher. Beef exports finished the first quarter 4% lower in volume (256,587 mt) but 5% ahead of last year's record pace in value ($1.3 billion).
March pork exports declined 18% from a year ago in both volume (163,004 mt) and value ($469.5 million), hampered by a beta agonist-related market closure in Russia, larger domestic supplies in China and South Korea and weakened demand in top markets Japan and Mexico. For the first quarter, pork exports fell 12% below last year's record pace in volume (528,195 mt) and 11% in value ($1.49 billion).
U.S. Meat Export Federation says some export trends are anticipated, but trade impasse with Russia 'frustrating'
"We are definitely facing a challenging environment in several of our leading markets," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "Some of these trends are anticipated, such as the lower demand for exports where domestic production is up and inventories are plentiful. But the trade impasse with Russia is very frustrating because we have lost access to a market where demand for our product is extremely strong. In other destinations we have seen the overall demand for high-quality proteins become sluggish, and USMEF is very focused on reversing this trend."
March beef exports equated to 9% of U.S. muscle cut production and 12% when adding variety meat – ratios consistent with a year ago. Export value equated to $222.20 per head of fed slaughter, up from 9% in March 2012. First quarter export value was $221, also an increase of 9%.
Pork exports accounted for 20% of muscle cut production in March and 23.4% including variety meat. This is down from 24% and 27.8%, respectively, in March 2012. March export value equated to $50.38 per head, down from $59.92 in March 2012. First-quarter export value averaged $53.38 per head, down 10% from a year ago.