U.S. beef and pork exports finished 2016 strong, which contributed to recoveries in total volume compared to the previous year. According to USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), the U.S. exported a record 2.31 MMT of pork in 2016, up 8% from year-ago and 2% above the previous 2012 high. Meanwhile, beef exports in 2016 of 1.19 MMT were up 11% from 2016.
USDA currently projects 2016 beef exports to rise by 11.2% and to increase another 4.8% in 2017. Pork exports are currently projected to rise by 4.4% in 2016 and increase another 4.0% in 2017. This signals USDA's current 2016 pork export forecast is too low and will likely be revised in tomorrow's Supply & Demand Report.
During December, the U.S. exported 222,635 MT of pork, up 18% from year-ago, valued at $564.2 million, which is 20% higher than year-ago. Meanwhile, beef exports in December of 116,847 MT were up 24% from year-ago -- the largest monthly tally since July 2013 and a record for the month. Beef exports were valued at $619.1 million in December, up 22% from year-ago.
The USMEF points out an impressive second half contributed to pork's record year, with Mexico posting its fifth consecutive record. "At this time of record-large pork production, it would be hard to overstate the importance of Mexican demand to the U.S. industry," said Philip Seng, USMEF President and CEO. "This is especially true for hams, as we are locked out of Russia -- once a large destination for U.S. hams -- and China's demand for imported hams has moderated in recent months. So now more than ever, we need strong demand from our key customers in Mexico, and they have responded with extraordinary results. December exports to Mexico accounted for nearly $16 per head, and that's absolutely critical to the entire U.S. pork supply chain."
Additionally, USMEF notes that South Korea and Taiwan imported a record amount of U.S. beef, with exports to Japan the largest in the post-BSE era by climbing 26% above 2015 levels. "In addition to the strength of the U.S. dollar, U.S. beef overcame other severe challenges in these north Asian markets and achieved remarkable results," Seng said. "Despite facing higher tariff rates in Japan compared to Australian beef, U.S. beef displaced its competition and won back significant market share. And the investment the U.S. industry made to rebuild consumer confidence in Korea is paying tremendous dividends, especially in the retail sector. We're seeing U.S. beef featured regularly by retailers who were once reluctant to carry the product."