U.S. pork exports in November climbed to the highest value since mid-2021, the U.S. Meat Export Federation reported Wednesday, driven by strong demand from Mexico, Central America and Columbia.
Values totaled $737.4 million, a 2% increase from the previous year and the seventh-highest total on record for pork exports, according to the trade association, which compiled recently published data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As momentum for pork builds, U.S. beef and lamb exports struggled in November after demand from Japan, Canada and other key markets weakened.
Mexico, one of the largest destinations for U.S. pork, has already purchased more pork between January and November than it did for the entirety of 2022. There was also robust growth from Peru, Chile and Colombia, which pushed November pork exports to South America to the largest levels in two years.
The latest results are “remarkable and very broad-based,” USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said in a statement.
Surging pork demand came during a period of increased market competition in Mexico. Since mid-2021, the country has granted zero-duty access to all meat and poultry suppliers through 2024. Europe and the U.S.have been major beneficiaries of this, however, as “pork imports from Brazil have been suspended since late November due to a court challenge to Mexico’s import procedures,” the USMEF reported.
“While Mexico accounts for much of the past year’s export growth, there are success stories throughout the Western Hemisphere and across the entire globe. And the coming year also looks very promising in both established and emerging markets,” Halstrom added.
Meanwhile, U.S. beef and lamb exports slowed during November. Three of the largest export destinations for U.S. beef — South Korea, Japan and mainland China — purchased less beef in response to sustained inflationary pressures that have hurt consumer demand. Monthly exports declined 17% to South Korea, 22% to Japan and 24% to China compared to 2022, according to November volume data.
“These negative factors should ease in 2024, but marketing the value attributes of U.S. beef will remain critical,” the USMEF reported.
Lamb exports for November continued to trend lower despite growth from certain countries. Improved demand from Guatemala, the Netherlands Antilles and Barbados were offset by lower shipments to Canada and Mexico. Lamb exports totaled 115 metric tons, a 64% decline from the previous year.
“There are certainly bright spots for U.S. beef, with exports rebounding in Mexico and demand in several Western Hemisphere markets the strongest we’ve seen in years,” Halstrom said. “But economic conditions in our largest Asian markets and the sharp rebound in Australian production and exports have been persistent obstacles over the past year, making it a sharp contrast with the tremendous 2022 performance for U.S. beef exports.