U.S. meat exports have been a mixed bag early in 2023. Dan Halstrom, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, says pork exports have started the year ahead of beef.
“We have stats to February. So, on the pork side, I’d say things are going very well. We have broad-based growth. We’re up year-to-date, for the first two months, up 12 percent in the volume and a little bit more than that on the value on the pork side, and several markets are contributing. Mexico continues to be the shining star – it has been for the last year, actually – they have nine percent growth. We have China up 30 percent. You’ve got the Caribbean region, the Central American region, the Philippines and Vietnam regions, and all of these are seeing some growth of some sort.”
Beef started the year slowly according to Halstrom.
“February was better, you know. It was down quite a bit in January. February was a rebound month, so things are looking a little bit better on the beef side coming off of last year’s record. You look at Japan’s a little bit better on the beef side. We’re steady with a year ago being the largest volume market on beef. Korea is still down. Mexico’s up big on beef as well, up 15 percent. The Caribbean – which is fully back from COVID – the food service business in the Caribbean is booming on beef as it is on pork. So yes, some good things going on, but Korea, as well, is down on the beef side.”
He says the stronger U.S. dollar and concerns surrounding the west coast ports are pressuring beef exports. Halstrom says the good news is overseas demand is still strong despite challenges that lay ahead during the rest of this year.
Halstrom; “I think headwinds will continue, in general. But that being said, our forecast for the year on pork is up five to six percent right now, so we’re well on track for that through a couple of months. On the beef side, our forecast is down seven percent. That’s assuming that production is down, and it is. Year-to-date production is down five percent, so we’re similar to that number. I’m optimistic about food service in Asia, especially on beef. We were hamstrung in Japan, Korea, and China last year, where we still had the COVID lockdown. So, I think food service is really coming back in Korea in a big way.”
Despite a slow start for beef, he says things might be moving in a positive direction in Southeast Asia. “We’re starting to see trend lines in the right direction for Japan and China, having just come off their COVID lockdowns in December of last year. We’re still waiting for that to happen, but our forecast is food service will return to normal as well. So, I think there could be some upside on beef from our forecast of seven percent down.”
For more information, go to usmef.org.