US Beef Exports Hit High Point in May

The value of U.S. beef exports topped $900 million in May, the highest since June 2023, according to data released by USDA and compiled by USMEF. Pork exports posted another solid performance in May, but were below last year in both volume and value.

May beef exports totaled 110,133 metric tons (mt), down 5% from a year ago but the second largest of 2024. Beef export value reached $902.4 million in May, 3% above last year and the highest in 11 months. For January through May, beef exports followed a similar trend, increasing 5% year-over-year in value to $4.29 billion, despite a 4% decline in volume (533,578 mt).

“It has been encouraging to see demand stabilize in Japan, where U.S. beef certainly faces significant headwinds,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “The tourism boom has provided a much-needed lift for Japan’s foodservice sector, and it is a source of optimism for buyers and importers. Taiwan and the ASEAN region were also bright spots for U.S. beef in May, along with Western Hemisphere markets such as Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean.”

May pork exports totaled 251,447 mt, down 4% from a year ago, valued at $715.8 million (down 2%). Through the first five months of the year, exports were still up 6% to 1.29 million mt, while export value was 7% above last year’s record pace at $3.6 billion.

“Pork shipments to Mexico trended a bit lower in May, but that’s following a record April performance,” Halstrom said. “And even at that, export value to Mexico still topped $200 million. U.S. pork also posted another great month in South Korea and exports to the ASEAN region were the largest in three years. Demand also continued to strengthen in Central America and the Caribbean.”

Japan, Mexico, Taiwan help push May beef export value over $900 million

Despite the persistently weak yen and other economic challenges, Japan has maintained its position as the leading volume destination for U.S. beef in 2024. May beef exports to Japan were just under 21,000 mt, up 9% from a year ago, while export value climbed 20% to $164.1 million. For January through May, exports to Japan were still 3% below last year in volume (104,712 mt), but export value increased 5% to $796.8 million.

The weak yen’s silver lining is that it has contributed to a surge in foreign visitors, bolstering Japan’s foodservice and hospitality sectors. Tourists arriving in Japan in May jumped 60% from a year ago and topped 3 million for the third consecutive month. Tourism officials project that total arrivals this year could surpass the 2019 record of 31.88 million.

Demand for U.S. beef in Mexico continues to gain momentum, with May exports increasing 9% from a year ago to 18,793 mt, while value climbed 17% to $109.8 million. Through May, exports to Mexico increased 17% to 96,323 mt, while value soared 23% to $564 million. This included more than 50,000 mt of beef variety meat, up 19% from a year ago, valued at $136.6 million (up 13%). Mexico is the largest volume destination for U.S. beef variety meat, taking large volumes of tripe, lips, livers, hearts and kidneys.

Beef shipments to Taiwan have trended lower in 2024, but May saw a substantial rebound in export value at $63.2 million, up 6% from a year ago and the highest since August. May volume was 5,878 mt, down 4% year-over-year. For January through May, exports to Taiwan were down 12% from a year ago to 23,392 mt, but value slipped just 2% to $254.7 million. Despite a widening spread in the price of U.S. beef versus major competitors, the U.S. continues to dominate Taiwan’s chilled beef sector, capturing about 70% market share.

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

May beef exports to the ASEAN region reached 4,646 mt, up 25% from a year ago and the largest since October. Shipments to Indonesia (1,823 mt) were the largest since October, to Vietnam (585 mt) were the highest since January 2023, and to Singapore (587 mt) were the largest since 2010 and the third highest on record. Shipments to the Philippines (1,457 mt) slowed from the previous month but were otherwise the highest since October. May exports to the region were valued at $40.6 million, up 81% year-over-year and the seventh largest on record. January-May exports increased 18% in value to just under $125 million, despite a 17% decline in volume (14,977 mt).
Fueled by record-large shipments of more than 1,100 mt to Guatemala and strong demand in Panama, May beef exports to Central America increased 37% from a year ago to 1,972 mt, valued at $13.6 million (up 45%). Through May, exports to the region climbed 12% in volume (9,464 mt) and 17% in value ($68 million).
May beef exports to China/Hong Kong slowed compared to last year, falling 16% to 18,659 mt. But export value was down just 4% to $181.3 million and export value to China alone was only 2% below last year at $146 million. January-May exports to the region were down 10% to 88,446 mt. Export value was 4% below last year at $821 million, but is still on pace to approach $2 billion in 2024.
Demand for U.S. beef continues to regain momentum in the Middle East, where May exports increased 19% from a year ago to 4,481 mt, while export value climbed 26% to $19.8 million. Through May, exports to the region increased 33% in volume (23,925 mt) and 35% in value ($106.3 million), bolstered by larger beef liver shipments to Egypt and robust demand for muscle cuts in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.
Larger shipments to the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, Jamaica and the Bahamas pushed May beef exports to the Caribbean to 2,846 mt, up 39% from a year ago, while export value increased 7% to $22.5 million. January-May exports to the region increased 27% to 14,774 mt, valued at $121.8 million (up 13%).
Beef exports to leading value market Korea slowed in May, falling 24% from a year ago to 18,063 mt, valued at $168 million (down 14%). Through May, exports to Korea were 14% below last year’s pace at 96,960 mt, but still increased slightly in value ($908.1 million, up 1%).
Export value equated to $410.94 per head of fed slaughter in May, up 3% from a year ago. The January-May per-head average was $410.40, up 5%. Exports accounted for 13.8% of total May beef production, and 11.5% for muscle cuts only – down from 14.7% and 12.1%, respectively, a year ago. The January-May ratios were 13.9% of total production and 11.6% for muscle cuts, each down about one-half percentage point from the same period last year.

May pork exports below last year, but still show broad-based strength

Although pork export volume to leading market Mexico slowed in May following record-large April shipments, export value still increased and 2024 demand remains on a record pace. May exports to Mexico totaled 91,338 mt, down 6% from a year ago, but value was 2% higher at $201.9 million. January-May exports to Mexico reached 480,193 mt, up 7% from a year ago, while value increased 14% to $1.02 billion.

While Mexico continues to shine as a destination for hams and other pork cuts for further processing, the U.S. industry has made impressive inroads in the country’s rapidly growing retail and foodservice sectors, with per-capita pork consumption continuing to expand. Mexico is also a major outlet for U.S. pork variety meat, including for taco applications.

Pork exports to Korea posted another robust performance in May, totaling 22,354 mt. This was up 6% from a year ago, while value increased 8% to $78.9 million. Through May, exports to Korea climbed 35% above last year’s pace to 118,092 mt, while value soared 40% to $395.4 million. The U.S. industry continues to capitalize on Korean consumers’ growing appetite for convenient, easy-to-prepare entrées and snacks, while U.S. pork is also gaining traction in the foodservice sector.

Despite lower shipments to leading market Honduras, May pork exports to Central America increased 11% from a year ago to 11,711 mt, while export value climbed 26% to $37.8 million. May exports to Costa Rica nearly tripled from a year ago, while also gaining strength in Guatemala and El Salvador. January-May exports to the region increased 25% from a year ago to 64,161 mt, while export value soared 35% above last year’s record pace to $196.8 million.

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

Led by larger shipments to the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, May pork exports to the ASEAN region reached 9,235 mt, up 41% from a year ago and the largest since May 2021. This included record-large variety meat exports to the Philippines, totaling 4,483 mt. Through May, total pork and pork variety meat exports to the ASEAN increased 17% to 31,715 mt, valued at $67.7 million (up 4%).
Pork exports to Colombia remained strong in May, climbing 55% from a year ago to 9,653 mt, while value soared 63% to $26.6 million. January-May exports to Colombia increased 46% to 49,315 mt, a record pace, while value climbed 58% to $135.3 million.
Although May exports to Oceania were below last year’s large volume, shipments remained robust at 9,353 mt, valued at $32.8 million. With exports expanding to both Australia and New Zealand, January-May shipments to the region increased 64% to 46,574 mt, with value climbing 63% to $165.6 million. While both Australia and New Zealand restrict access for fresh U.S. pork, Oceania is a strong destination for pork cuts used for further processing and the region has a growing appetite for value-added U.S. processed products.
May pork exports to Japan held fairly steady with last year at 30,010 mt, while value was down 1% to $121.9 million. January-May shipments to Japan were down slightly to 153,052 mt, with value steady at $618.2 million. Similar to beef, the strong U.S. dollar has hampered Japan’s demand for U.S. pork, but Japan is importing more frozen U.S. pork to partially offset the decline in ground seasoned pork and chilled pork. The rise in tourism, declining inventories and still-high prices for European pork offer potential growth opportunities in the second half of the year.
May exports of pork variety meat increased slightly from a year ago to 51,957 mt. Export value was also strong at $110.8 million, though down 13% from last May’s record high. For January through May, pork variety meat exports climbed 4% above last year to 257,431 mt, but value fell 5% to $557.4 million, mainly on lower unit values for feet, tongues and stomachs. China/Hong Kong is still the top destination for U.S. pork variety meat exports, but growth to Mexico, the ASEAN region, Canada, Central America and Colombia helped offset declining demand from China/Hong Kong.
May pork exports equated to $67.64 per head slaughtered, down 2% from a year ago, but the January-May average was still up 5% to $66.54. Exports accounted for 30.7% of total May pork production and 26.2% for muscle cuts only, down from the very high ratios (32% and 27.6%, respectively) posted in May 2023. January-May exports accounted for 30.7% of total production and 26.5% for muscle cuts, each up about one percentage point from the same period last year.

May lamb exports trend higher

May exports of U.S. lamb totaled 251 mt, up 78% from the low year-ago volume, while export value was up 66% to $1.3 million.

For January through May, lamb exports increased 11% from a year ago to 1,294 mt, while value climbed 25% to $7.2 million. Export growth was driven primarily by the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada, but shipments also increased to the Philippines and Taiwan.

Complete January-May 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.

NOTES:

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).

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation