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Beef and pork exports are looking strong for 2021
Iowa Correspondent

Despite low February beef and pork numbers, U.S. beef exports will surpass 2020 numbers, with U.S. pork exports expected to narrowly top last year’s record-setting numbers, according to data released by the USDA, and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
“While February exports were in line with expectations, the results don’t fully reflect global demand for U.S. red meat,” said Dan Halstrom, U.S. Meat Export Federation president and CEO.  
“Logistical challenges, including congestion at some U.S. 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,” he added.
However, the report said exports were consistent with February projections, and the federation still expects 2021 beef exports to increase substantially year-over-year, while pork exports are projected to narrowly surpass the 2020 record. ​
The report said beef exports totaled 103,493 metric tons in February, down 8 percent from a year ago, valued at $669.5 million (down 2 percent). 
“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 metric tons (down 3 percent),” the report read. 
Through February, beef exports were 5 percent below last year’s pace at 208,540 metric tons, valued at $1.32 billion (down 2 percent), the report said. Beef muscle cut exports were down 1 percent to 163,928 metric tons, and steady in value at $1.18 billion. ​
Moreover, February pork exports were down 12 percent from a year ago at 239,240 metric tons, valued at $629.4 million (down 13 percent). ​​
Halstrom said the flow of exports through U.S. ports is showing some gradual improvement as COVID-19-impacted crews move closer to full strength, but remains a serious concern for the U.S. agricultural sector. ​
“The U.S. Meat Export Federation greatly appreciates the members of Congress and ag industry representatives who have worked to bring more attention to this situation, and the efforts of maritime regulators to address shipping practices,” he said. ​
The report 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 were up an average of 27 percent year-over-year for pork (nearly $90/hundredweight), and 4 percent for Choice beef ($224/hundredweight),” the report said.
The report said there was also strong momentum for beef exports to China, and Korea.
“The surge in beef exports to China continued in February, reaching 8,644 metric tons valued at $66 million – far above the minimal levels posted a year ago, and making it the fourth largest destination for U.S. beef,” the report said. 
“Through February, exports were more than 1,000 percent above last year’s pace in both volume (16,506 metric tons), and value ($124.1 million),” the report added. “Beef exports to China already exceed the full-year totals reached in 2019, prior to the U.S. securing expanded beef access through the Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement.
The report said February beef exports to South Korea were slightly above last year’s strong totals.
“Korea surpassed perennial value leader Japan, where exports felt the impact of an annual import safeguard established in the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement,” the report said. 
On March 8, Japan imposed the higher tariff rate, which remained in effect for 30 days, when the rate declined to 25 percent – the same rate that now applies to beef cuts imported from Japan’s other major suppliers. 
“As prescribed in the trade agreement, trade officials from the U.S. and Japan have begun consultations on possible adjustments to the safeguard,” the report said.
The report said February pork exports equated to $60.34 per head slaughtered, down 11 percent from a year ago. The January-February average was down 10 percent to $58.68. February pork exports accounted for 29.4 percent of total production, and 26.9 percent for muscle cuts, down from nearly 33 percent and 30 percent, respectively, a year ago. 
Through February, exports accounted for 28.6 percent of total pork production (down from 31.3 percent), and 26 percent for muscle cuts (down from 28.6 percent), the report said.
In the Philippines, where pork production has also been greatly impacted by African swine fever, the report said exports through February more than doubled last year’s pace in both volume (11,532 metric tons, up 114 percent), and value ($28.5 million, up 129 percent). 
In Central America, following a record year in 2020, demand for U.S. pork continues, the report said. 
“February exports were record-large to Guatemala for the second consecutive month, and set new highs in El Salvador and Costa Rica, while exports to Honduras were the fourth highest on record,” the report said. 
Through February, exports to Central America increased 46 percent from a year ago to 21,658 metric tons, valued at $53.3 million (up 38 percent), the report added. 
“While most pork shipped to Central America is used for further processing, the U.S. industry has been successful in expanding U.S. pork’s presence in the region’s retail and foodservice sectors.”
To read the full report, visit: