Cattle Hogs split screen

Beef and pork exports were lower in February, according to the USDA.

U.S. beef exports were down 6% from a year ago, with export values down 3%. Combined with January, exports for the two months were 3% below last year’s record volume, but steady in value, says an analysis from the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

“The volume decline is mainly due to lower exports to Hong Kong and Canada, as shipments to most other major beef markets have trended higher in 2019,” the group said.

Export value per head averaged $309.39 in February, down 4% from a year ago. The USMEF says exports accounted for 12.8% of total beef production and 10.1% of muscle cuts.

Pork exports were down 9% from a year ago, with values dropping by 17 percent, the lowest monthly value since February 2016. Exports in January and February were down a combined 5% from a year ago, with values down 13 percent.

Exports accounted for 24% of February pork production, with export values per head just over $45.

“The stiff headwinds trade disputes have created for U.S. pork exports have certainly not subsided,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “On the beef side there is still much to be excited about, especially with the launch of U.S.-Japan trade agreement talks. A great deal is at stake for both U.S. beef and U.S. pork in those negotiations, as exports to Japan deliver remarkable returns for the entire U.S. supply chain, and it is essential that we get back on a level playing field with our competitors.”

Tariffs also played into reduced pork exports to Mexico, with volume down 13% in February. Export values were down 32%. The U.S. continues to remain the largest supplier of pork into Mexico, but the USMEF says Canada, Chile and the European Union have all gained market share in 2019.

Demand could soon increase from China as African swine fever continues to plague the Chinese pork industry. The USMEF says retaliatory duties into China “make it difficult for the U.S. industry to capitalize.”

The duty rate on U.S. pork is 62%, compared to 12% for other pork suppliers.

The USMEF says January-February exports were down 22% from a year ago, with value dropping by 34%.

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