pigs and pork

While third quarter pork exports were outstanding, the impact from the global COVID-19 pandemic has likely put the brakes on any momentum in place prior to April 1.

March pork exports set records, according to an analysis from the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

“March export results were very solid, especially given the COVID-19 related headwinds facing customers in many international markets at that time,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom.

“Stay-at-home orders created enormous challenges for many countries’ food service sectors, several key currencies slumped against the U.S. dollar and logistical obstacles surfaced in some key markets, yet demand for U.S. red meat proved very resilient.”

Halstrom said subsequent closures and slowdowns in several pork processing plants are not reflected in first quarter data, and cautioned that April and May exports could slow because of the pandemic.

However, he believes the outlook for 2020 is still positive.

“These are truly unprecedented circumstances, creating an uncertain global business climate,” Halstrom said. “The U.S. meat industry has spent decades developing a loyal and well-informed customer base throughout the world, which has embraced the quality and value delivered by U.S. red meat.

Pork demand from China/Hong Kong continued to drive exports, he said, although March exports to Mexico, Japan and Canada also saw significant increases. Export volume was up 38% from a year ago, while export values were up 47%.

Over the first quarter, pork exports were up 40% from a year ago, with export values up 52%. Exports added $64.66 per head in value for each hog sold, which is 40% higher than a year ago, according to USMEF.

First quarter exports accounted for 31.4% of total pork production and 28.5% for muscle cuts, up from 24.4% and 21.3%, respectively, in 2019. USMEF said domestic pork production was up 9% in the first quarter, with industry expansion fueled by strong international demand.

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.