Record US pork exports outperform mid-2021 peak

USA, Denver. US pork exports set a new benchmark in November, surpassing the highs of mid-2021. Amid a complex global landscape, the data released by USDA and the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) points to a robust and broad-based momentum in the pork industry.

According to a USMEF press release, the spike in pork exports has been primarily fuelled by exceptional performances in Mexico, Central America, and Colombia. November pork exports reached 258,601 t, reflecting a notable 5% increase from the previous year. The export value soared by 2%, hitting $737.4 million, marking the highest since May 2021 and the seventh highest on record. For the January-November period, pork exports totalled 2.64 million t, representing an 8% surge from the previous year and valued at $7.39 billion, a 5% increase.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom expressed his optimism: “The momentum for US pork exports is remarkable and very broad-based.” Despite challenges, Halstrom highlighted success stories in Mexico, across the Western Hemisphere, and the globe. Anticipation for the coming year remains high, with promising prospects in established and emerging markets.

Pork exports to Mexico achieved a value record of $221.3 million in November, up 5% from the previous year. Impressively, Mexico’s surging demand for US pork persisted, even as the market attracted new competition. Since mid-2021, Mexico has granted zero-duty access to all eligible pork, beef and poultry suppliers, and this policy has been extended through 2024. The primary beneficiaries are European and Brazilian pork, though pork imports from Brazil have been suspended since late November. Still, US pork maintained an 84% share of Mexico’s imported pork market in 2023, showcasing remarkable resilience.

Growth fuelled by exceptional performance in Central America

Central America was pivotal in setting monthly volume and value records for pork exports in November. Outstanding growth in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador contributed to a 35% increase in shipments and a 37% surge in value. The region experienced a record pace, with annual value records in Honduras and Guatemala and both volume and value records in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Colombia also contributed to the success story, setting a value record at $34.3 million in November, up 59% from the previous year. Robust growth in Chile and Peru pushed South American pork exports to the highest levels in two years, with shipments increasing by 55% and value jumping by 58%.

While pork excelled, US beef exports faced challenges in November, recording the third-lowest value of 2023. With a total of 99,029 t, a 14% decline from the previous year, and a 7% drop in value to $786.2 million, the beef industry experienced a setback. For the first 11 months of the year, beef exports were 13% below the record pace of 2022, reaching 1.18 million t, and a 17% decrease in value to $9.11 billion.

Halstrom acknowledged the hurdles faced by US beef exports, citing economic conditions in major Asian markets and a sharp rebound in Australian production and exports as persistent obstacles. Despite these challenges, he emphasised sustained demand for chilled US beef, with the US maintaining dominance as the primary supplier to Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.