Beef and pork quad graphic

Beef and pork exports remained solid in April despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

An analysis from the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) shows pork exports in April remained well above year-ago levels. Beef exports were below last year’s numbers but still topped $600 million in value.

“Considering all the challenges the U.S. red meat industry faced in April, export results were encouraging,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Exporters lost several days of slaughter and processing due to COVID-19, and shipments to Mexico and some other Latin American markets declined due to slumping currencies and the imposition of stay-at-home orders.

“But despite these significant headwinds, global demand for U.S. beef and pork remained strong.”

He said May totals will likely show similar issues when those numbers are available in early July.

“International customers are relieved to see U.S. production rebounding, solidifying our position as a reliable supplier,” Halstrom said. “This helps address a major concern for buyers, as COVID-19 has disrupted meat production in many countries — not just the United States.

“Demand remains robust for U.S. red meat, especially at retail, but USMEF is actively working with our food service customers across the globe to help ensure a strong recovery for the restaurant, catering and hospitality sectors.”

April beef exports were down 6% from a year ago, with total value down 11 percent. Shipments to Japan continued to increase as reduced tariffs benefit the U.S. beef industry.

Over the first four months of 2020, beef exports to Japan are up 5%, while overall value is up 3%.

Because of smaller slaughter numbers, the export value per head rose to a record $363.35, up 19% from a year ago. April beef exports accounted for 14.4% of total beef production, up about a half percent from a year ago.

USMEF says China and Hong Kong continue to set the past for pork export growth, but significant growth has been seen in shipments to Japan, Vietnam and Chile.

April pork export volume was up 22% from a year ago, although the overall tonnage was the lowest since November 2019. Export values were up 28%.

Over the first four months of the year, USMEF says pork exports remain on a record pace, and are up 35% from a year ago.-

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