US February meat exports fall, 2021 outlook still good
US red meat exports in February have experienced a drop of 8% in beef and 12% in pork compared to the same month last year., according to data released by USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF). However, the prospects for this year remain positive as USMEF executives are expecting logistical hurdles and labor shortages to be eliminated in a short time.
"Logistical challenges, including congestion at some US ports, are still a significant headwind and tight labor supplies at the plant level continue to impact export volumes for certain products – including some variety meat items and labor-intensive muscle cuts," commented Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO.
He notes that the flow of exports through US ports is showing some gradual improvement as COVID-impacted crews move closer to full strength, but remains a serious concern for the US agricultural sector.
“USMEF greatly appreciates the members of Congress and agricultural industry representatives who have worked to bring more attention to this situation, and the efforts of maritime regulators to address shipping practices,” he said.
Export demand has remained solid despite logistical challenges and other pandemic-related obstacles. Continued international demand, along with robust domestic business, contributed to stronger cutout values in the first quarter, which was up an average of 27% year-over-year for pork (nearly $90/cwt) and 4% for Choice beef ($224/cwt).
Beef exports totaled 103,493 tonnes in February, down 8% from a year ago, valued at $669.5 million (down 2%). This was due mainly to a decline in variety meat exports, as beef muscle cuts were steady with last year in value at $597.9 million on a volume of 82,530 tonnes (down 3%). Through February, beef exports were 5% below last year’s pace at 208,540 tonnes, valued at $1.32 billion (down 2%). Beef muscle cut exports were down 1% to 163,928 tonnes and steady in value at $1.18 billion.
February pork exports were down 12% from a year ago at 239,240 tonnes, valued at $629.4 million (down 13%). For muscle cuts only, exports fell by the same percentages to 203,526 tonnes valued at $548 million. Through February, pork exports were 11% below last year’s pace at 487,896 tonnes, valued at $1.27 billion (down 13%). Pork muscle cut exports were also down 11% to 411,760 tonnes, worth $1.1 billion (down 14%). "While February exports were in line with expectations, the results don’t fully reflect global demand for US red meat," added Mr. Halstrom. The main markets for US beef were China and South Korea, while in Japan exports felt the impact of an annual import safeguard established in the US-Japan Trade Agreement. For pork, China remained the largest market so far, but exports are increasing to the Philippines and in Central America, according to USMEF data.
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