Pork exports continued on a record pace in October, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Through October, U.S. pork exports were 15% ahead of last year’s record pace at 2.46 million mt, with value up 16% to $6.33 billion.

For the month of October, pork exports were up 8% year-over-year to 242,536 metric tons (mt), with value increasing 8% to $641.1 million. October muscle cut exports posted double digits gains at 201,723 mt (up 11%), with value up 10% to $551.8 million. This pushed January-October totals for pork muscle cuts to 2.07 million mt (up 20%) valued at $5.49 billion (up 18%).

Pork export value averaged $46.87 per head slaughtered in October, down 3% from a year ago, but the January-October average remains 12% higher at $57.33. Exports accounted for 26% of total pork production in October and 23.2% for muscle cuts only, up from 24% and 20.9%, respectively, a year ago. Through October, exports accounted for 29.2% of total production and 26.5% for muscle cuts, each up significantly from the 2019 ratios of 26% and 22.6%.

“While the tight labor situation continues to limit the cut and variety meat specifications available for export, red meat demand is strengthening in many critical markets,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “October exports of bone-in hams, for example, were near the July record and up 50% from a year ago. This has been a volatile year, filled with shifts in consumer preferences and a lot of uncertainty for international buyers. But the U.S. industry has responded positively to these challenges and the demand dynamics for red meat are quite strong as we approach year’s end. When the gains made at retail over the past several months are combined with a stronger foodservice recovery, the prospects for export growth are very promising.”

Pork exports gaining strength in wide range of markets

While China/Hong Kong remains this year’s leading destination for U.S. pork exports, October data showed rising momentum in several key markets. Exports to Japan were the largest since April at 34,854 mt (up 18% from a year ago), valued at $146.9 million (up 20%). These results pushed January-October exports to Japan 4% above last year’s pace in volume (318,962 mt) and 6% higher in value ($1.34 billion). U.S. pork continues to increase its share of Japan’s ground seasoned pork imports, which is now 72% compared to 57% last year. Value of these imports reached $275 million through October, up 51% year-over-year, reflecting tariff reductions in the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement and strong consumer demand for sausages and other processed pork products.

October pork exports to Mexico were the largest since March at 60,798 mt, up 11% from a year ago, valued at $104.8 million (up 8%). January-October exports to Mexico were still down 6% in volume (551,691 mt) and 12% in value ($895.5 million) from a year ago, but U.S. pork is well-positioned for a strong finish to 2020 in Mexico. Through October, Mexico took 69% of U.S. bone-in ham and shoulder exports with volume of nearly 370,000 mt (up 3% from a year ago). For the third consecutive month, Mexico was the leading volume destination for U.S. pork muscle cuts in October at 50,304 mt, up 14% from a year ago.

 Farm Journal’s Pork | Greg Henderson | December 07