U.S. red meat exports posted solid results in July, with volumes for both U.S. beef and pork trending higher than a year ago, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), Denver, Colo. Beef export value was down from last July, but pork export value increased significantly.

July beef export volume increased 8% from a year ago to 99,341 metric tons (mt) – the second-largest monthly total this year – while export value was $526.7 million, down 5%. For January through July, export volume was up 4% to 640,888 mt, while value fell 10% to $3.44 billion.

Exports accounted for 14% of total beef production in July and 11% for muscle cuts only – each up about 1 percentage point from a year ago. For January through July, these ratios were 13% and 10%, respectively, steady with last year. Export value per head of fed slaughter was $263.89 in July, down 5% from a year ago, and $251.82 for January through July, down 13%.

Pork exports reached 180,547 mt in July, up 8% from a year ago, while export value increased 11% to $491.9 million. For January through July, pork export volume increased 3% to 1.29 million mt, while value was $3.27 billion – still 2% below last year’s pace.

Exports accounted for 27.5% of total pork production in July and 23% for muscle cuts only – an impressive jump from a year ago when these ratios were 23.5% and 21%, respectively. For the first seven months of the year, exports accounted for 25.5% of total pork production and 21.5% for muscle cuts – each up slightly from a year ago. Export value per head slaughtered was $56.14 in July – up 19% from a year ago. For January through July, per-head value averaged $49.37, down 2%.

Beef exports shine in Japan, Korea; Taiwan remains steady

Japan and South Korea continued to be top performers for U.S. beef in July, driven by strong demand for chilled beef. Exports to Japan climbed 10% to 23,042 mt, while value was steady with last July at $129 million. Through July, beef exports to Japan were up 12% from a year ago in volume (145,358 mt) and 4% in value ($836.2 million). Chilled beef exports to Japan were up 40% to 59,783 mt.

In Korea, July beef exports soared 37% to 16,459 mt, valued at $94.5 million (up 27%). For January through July, exports to Korea climbed 23% in volume (90,401 mt) and 7% in value ($531 million). Chilled beef exports to Korea were up 42% to 12,249 mt.

Chilled U.S. beef is also in high demand in Taiwan, where July exports held relatively steady year-over-year. Through July, exports to Taiwan totaled 20,907 mt (up 3%) valued at $173.2 million (down 6%). Chilled exports were up 13% to 8,320 mt, and the United States holds more than 65% of the chilled beef market in Taiwan – the highest share of any Asian market.

Highlighting the need for more destinations for beef variety meat, exports to Egypt continued to slump in July – dropping 26% from a year ago in volume (6,753 mt) and 50% in value ($6.4 million). While Egypt remains a leading destination for beef variety meat, January to July exports to Egypt were down 3% from a year ago in volume (52,136 mt) and 31% in value ($57.3 million).

On a positive note, total U.S. beef variety meat exports increased in July, pushing January to July exports up 6% from a year ago to 185,722 mt, valued at $491 million (down 1%). Growth has been led by Japan (27,779 mt, up 29%), Korea (7,442 mt, up 47%) and a slight uptick in Mexico (63,760 mt, up 2%), but also the ability to ship to South Africa, where exports reached 2,386 mt. Variety meat exports also trended higher to Chile and Colombia and to the Caribbean and ASEAN regions.

“We are pleased to see demand for U.S. beef variety meats increasing in other markets and helping to offset the slowdown to Egypt,” says Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “It is a top priority for USMEF and our beef industry partners to expand the reach of beef variety meat exports and build demand in alternative destinations, and those efforts are paying off.”

China/Hong Kong continue to drive pork exports; chilled pork strong in Japan

July pork exports to China/Hong Kong were the smallest since February, but volume was still up 73% year-over-year to 47,701 mt, while value climbed 60% to $94 million. For January through July, exports to the region were up 79% in volume (332,601 mt) and 63% in value ($634.5 million).

Pork export volume to Mexico dipped in July (54,805 mt, down 6%), but value climbed 15% to $113 million. This was the highest monthly value total of 2016, with unit values up 22%, reflecting a notable improvement in ham prices. For January through July, exports to Mexico were down 8% year-over-year in volume (379,550 mt) and 5% in value ($679.1 million)

U.S. exports of chilled pork to Japan remain on a record pace at 126,394 mt, up 12% through July. Although Europe is dominating Japan’s frozen pork imports for further processing into ham and bacon, U.S. exports of high-quality chilled pork have fully rebounded from the West Coast port issues of 2015 and are reaching new heights. Total U.S. exports to Japan slowed again in July to 30,479 mt (down 6%), putting the year-to-date total at 223,341 mt, down 12%. Export value to Japan was $879.5 million through July, down 10%.

Led by strong demand in Honduras and Guatemala, exports to Central America continue to shine in 2016. Through July, exports to the region increased 16% from a year ago in volume (36,536 mt) and climbed 8% in value ($85.7 million). Exports to the Dominican Republic were also strong in July, pushing January to July volume up 3% from a year ago to 15,008 mt, while value was down 3% to $32.1 million.

July was also a strong month for pork exports to Canada, pushing January to July totals ahead of last year’s pace in both volume (113,694 mt, up 2%) and value ($454.3 million, up 1%). Exports to Australia also remained above year-ago levels in July, pushing the year-to-date total to 39,010 mt (up 9%) valued at $106.5 million (down 3%).

“While it is encouraging to see the strong results in China/Hong Kong continue, the reality is that China’s domestic pork prices have fallen and import demand has slowed,” Seng says. “That’s why it is so vitally important that we defend U.S. pork’s market share and further expand demand in markets around the world. The competitiveness of U.S. pork is also improving, and this should boost exports through the end of the year.”

July lamb exports show improvement

While still down from a year ago, July lamb exports were the largest since March at 682 mt. July export value was $1.5 million, up 3% year-over-year. July was a strong month for exports to Hong Kong and the Philippines, while Bermuda continued to trend sharply higher than a year ago. For the first seven months of 2016, lamb exports were down 9% in volume (5,012 mt) and 11% in value ($10.2 million).