U.S. beef exports maintained their strong momentum in May, with export volumes exceeding last year's totals and value increasing by double digits, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Beef exports in May were up 5% in volume (102,967 mt) and 15% in value ($589 million). For the first five months of 2014, export volume was up 9% to 479,344 mt and value increased 17% to $2.64 billion.
In mid-June, U.S. beef gained full access to Hong Kong, adding key products such as ground beef and processed meats. But even with some restrictions still in place, May exports to Hong Kong surged more than 80% from a year ago to 13,008 mt. On a value basis, exports more than doubled to $95.2 million.
"We're pleased to finally have full access to Hong Kong, which is something the U.S. beef industry has been pursuing for some time," Seng said. "But this market has already performed exceptionally well, especially since we gained access for bone-in cuts early last year. That step has helped us achieve outstanding growth in Hong Kong's foodservice sector."
Exports to Mexico increased 35% to 20,480 mt, the largest monthly total of the year, while value increased 52% to $93.5 million. This pushed the January-May total to 96,281 mt ( up 34%), valued at $452.5 million ( up 49%).
Strong momentum continued for exports to Korea, which increased 26% in volume and 48% in value. Korea's five-month value total was nearly one-third higher than a year ago as retail outlets and restaurants have shown renewed interest in featuring U.S. beef.
Exports to Taiwan continued to bounce back from a slow first quarter, increasing 25% in volumeand 16% in value. Demand for chilled U.S. beef remains strong in Taiwan, even as frozen exports face increased competition from Australia (due to large, drought-induced supplies) and New Zealand (which has a new free trade agreement with Taiwan).
Japan's results slowed from a year ago, but this was in comparison to very large totals from May 2013. For the first five months of the year, exports to Japan are fairly steady with last year's strong pace in both volume and value.
Beef export value per head of fed slaughter set another new record in May at $279.39, up $47.72 from a year ago. The ratio of U.S. production exported was 11% for muscle cuts and 14% for muscle cuts and variety meat combined – up from 10% and 13%, respectively, from a year ago.