Beef Pork market with cattle and pigs

Pork and beef exports decreased in April, continuing a trend that began in the first quarter.

Beef exports were down 5% in volume in April compared to a year ago, while pork exports were down 6%, according to the USDA. While the value of beef exports was down only slightly, pork values were down 8%.

However, according to an analysis from the U.S. Meat Export Federation, there is some good news. April exports to South Korea were up 18%, with overall value up 22% from a year ago.

Exports for 2019 through April 30 were 11% ahead of last year’s record pace, according to the USMEF. Nearly 48% of all beef imported by South Korea comes from the U.S.

Exports to Taiwan were up 15% in volume and 14% in value in April.

This helps balance decreased exports to Japan as the U.S. competes against countries that are not paying stiff tariffs. Beef exports in April were down 6% in both volume and value.

U.S. market share in Japan is at 41%, down 4% from 2017 as Japanese imports of beef from Mexico, Canada, New Zealand and Australia continue to increase.

“U.S. beef is holding its own in Japan, but the April numbers are telling,” says USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “With the April 1 rate cut, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and Mexican beef are now subject to a 26.6% duty while the rate for U.S. beef remains at 38.5%.

“It is absolutely essential that the U.S. secures an agreement that will level this playing field. U.S. beef’s exceptional growth in Korea is a great example of what’s possible when tariffs are less of an obstacle.”

The lifting of retaliatory tariffs by Mexico on May 20 came too late to help April exports, which were down 30% from a year ago in volume and down 29% in value.

“Lifting of Mexico’s retaliatory duties was the most welcome news the U.S. pork industry has received in a long time,” Halstrom says.

Retaliatory tariffs remain in effect in China. Pork exports over the first four months of 2019 were down 16% in volume and 32% in value.

Exports to Japan were also down.

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