April Pork Exports Largest in Nearly Three Years; Beef Exports Also Trend Higher

April exports of U.S. pork reached the highest volume and value since May 2021, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). It was also a robust month for U.S. beef exports, which were the largest in 10 months and valued at just under $900 million.

Record shipments to Mexico bolster April pork exports

Fueled by a record performance in leading market Mexico and broad-based growth in several other regions, pork exports totaled 277,910 metric tons (mt) in April, up 14% from a year ago and the fifth largest on record. Export value climbed 18% to $778.8 million, the third highest on record. For January through April, exports increased 8% to 1.04 million mt, valued at $2.89 billion – up 10% from last year’s record pace.

“While Mexico was definitely the pacesetter in a tremendous month for pork exports, it was only part of the story,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Demand continued to build in South Korea, Central America, Colombia, Australia and the ASEAN, and we saw very encouraging growth in Japan. It was also great to see export value per head above the $70 mark for the second consecutive month.”

Pork export value in April equated to $72.46 per head slaughtered, up 7% from a year ago and the third highest on record. The January-April average was $66.28, also up 7% from a year ago.

Western Hemisphere and Middle Eastern markets drive April beef exports

April beef exports totaled 111,580 mt, up slightly from a year ago and the largest since June 2023. Export value increased 5% to $898.7 million, also the highest since June. Shipments to Mexico reached the highest value in more than three years, while exports also trended higher year-over-year to several other Western Hemisphere markets and to Japan and the Middle East. Through the first four months of 2024, beef export value increased 5% year-over-year to $3.38 billion, despite a 3% decline in volume (423,445 mt).

“Mexico also continued to shine on the beef side, along with the Caribbean, Central America and the Middle East,” Halstrom said. “These markets are benefiting from foodservice demand and currency advantages compared to the main Asian markets. The headwinds in Asia remain formidable, but the tourism boom in Japan has helped solidify demand and exports have stabilized this year, despite the continued weakness in the yen and strong competition from Australia. Robust retail and e-commerce demand has helped U.S. chilled beef continue to dominate in Korea and Taiwan.”

Through April, U.S. beef accounted for 69% of Korea’s chilled imports and 72% for Taiwan.

April lamb exports above last year, but lowest of 2024

April exports of U.S. lamb totaled 224 mt, up 33% from a year ago but the lowest since December. Export value was up 21% to $1.25 million. January-April exports increased 1% from a year ago to 1,043 mt, while value climbed an impressive 19% to $5.9 million. Growth was driven primarily by the Caribbean and Mexico, but shipments also increased year-over-year to Canada, the Philippines and Taiwan.

A detailed summary of the January-April export results for U.S. beef, pork and lamb, including market-specific highlights, is available from the USMEF website.