U.S. beef and pork riding export wave

DENVER — Export sales continue to provide welcome news for the U.S. beef and pork industries.

May pork sales set yet another monthly record while beef exports reached their highest levels since December of 2003.

In fact for pork, January-May exports to China/Hong Kong surpassed annual exports for the whole of 2007.

Here’s why

“The shortage in the global meat supply, combined with record pork production in the United States and the continued weak dollar are putting U.S. beef and pork in a very advantageous position in many export markets,” said Erin Daley, manager of research and analysis for the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Daley noted that China/Hong Kong has emerged as a key market for U.S. pork since the fourth quarter of last year since that country’s pork production has declined.

“It’s not so much that consumption is up,” said Daley. “Rather, production is down, and U.S. pork remains undervalued.”

Russia is the exception, however, where pork production is up, but not enough to keep pace with rising consumption.

Pork export details

The new monthly record for pork hit 196,118 metric tons or 432.4 million pounds (valued at nearly $452 million) in May.

Export volume was up 95 percent compared to May 2007 and 12 percent more than the April 2008 record.

China/Hong Kong was the largest destination for U.S. pork exports in May, with exports totaling 55,293 metric tons or 121.9 million pounds (a new record) valued at $99.4 million.

Exports to Japan exceeded 40,000 metric tons (88.2 million pounds) again in May after setting a record in March (40,853 metric tons).

For January-May, exports totaled 184,962 metric tons (407.7 million pounds) valued at $592 million, up 19 percent and 22 percent respectively — still the largest market in value terms.

Shades of pre-BSE

Beef (including variety meat) exports in May of 83,761 metric tons (184.6 million pounds) were the largest since December 2003, the month when reports of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a cow in Washington state hit the U.S.

The May 2008 totals reached 78 percent of the May 2003 export volume and 97 percent of its value at nearly $309 million.

The January-May volume of 355,982 metric tons (784.8 million pounds)) is 29 percent higher and the value ($1.25 billion) is 39 percent higher than the same period last year.

For January-May 2008, U.S. beef exports to Mexico were up 17 percent in volume and 18 percent in value to $552.7 million, up 18 percent.

Canada climbed 52 percent to 63,189 metric tons.

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