Cattle Hogs split screen

Pork exports set records in 2019, according to the USDA and an analysis from the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Exports grew by 10% in volume last year, with nearly $7 billion in value. December exports also set a record, breaking the market set in November 2019.

Pork export value per head grew to $66.70 in December, nearly 33% higher than a year ago. For all of 2019, per-head value grew by 4% over the previous year to $53.51.

U.S. beef exports were lower in 2019, the USMEF says.

Beef exports in December were down 1% from a year ago, with values down 3% for 2019. Export value per head was down 9% in December, with a yearly average of $309.75, down 4%.

Demand for U.S. pork surged in China/Hong Kong in December, more than quadruple the amount shipped last December.

“Despite retaliatory duties and the other barriers U.S. pork faces in China, exports to the China/Hong Kong region closed 2019 with tremendous momentum,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF President and CEO.

“We look forward to continued success in 2020, especially if U.S.-China trade relations continue to trend in a positive direction. The coronavirus situation is certainly concerning and disruptive, but it hasn’t dampened our enthusiasm for the potential this market holds for U.S. red meat.”

Pork exports to Mexico also grew by 10% in December as the market took advantage of the elimination of retaliatory tariffs. Exports to Japan were down 3% in volume and 2% lower in value, according to the USMEF.

Exports to Chile, Columbia and Peru continue to grow, as do shipments to Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica.

The USMEF says the drop in beef exports was partially due to lower shipments to Japan, which were down 6% in both volume and value.

South Korea continued to be a major customer for U.S. beef, with export values up 5% and volume up 7% in 2019.

“U.S. beef is achieving remarkable success in Korea’s traditional retail and food service sectors and is well-positioned to capitalize on growth in e-commerce, the institutional sector and other emerging sales channels,” Halstrom said.

“As U.S. beef moves steadily toward duty-free status in Korea, it becomes accessible and affordable for a wider range of customers whose appetite for U.S. beef continues to grow.”

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