Despite significant headwinds, 2018 pork exports reached 2.44 million t – just 0.5 percent below the 2017 record. Pork export value was $6.39 billion, down 1 percent year-over-year and the third-highest total on record, trailing only 2014 ($6.65 billion) and 2017 ($6.49 billion).
Pork export value averaged $51.37 per head slaughtered in 2018, down 4 percent year-over-year. Exports accounted for 25.7 percent of total pork production, down about one percentage point from 2017. The ratio was 22.5 percent when including only pork muscle cuts – up from 22.3 percent in 2017.
Solid year for U.S. pork, but second-half exports pressured by retaliatory duties
Through May 2018, pork exports to leading volume market Mexico appeared to be headed for a seventh consecutive record, topping the 2017 pace by 6 percent. But May was the last month in which exports to Mexico would increase year-over-year, due to retaliatory duties imposed in response to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Export volume to Mexico held up relatively well, finishing the year at 777,143 mt – 3 percent below the 2017 record. But export value took a bigger hit, declining 13 percent to $1.31 billion – the lowest since 2015. The decline in value from June through December was 24 percent, totaling $218 million, underscoring the large degree to which U.S. producers and exporters bore the cost of Mexico’s 20 percent retaliatory duty.
Retaliatory duties also impacted pork exports to China/Hong Kong, which fell 29 percent in volume (351,774 mt) and 21 percent in value ($851.7 million) compared to 2017. This included a 30 percent decline in pork variety meat volume to 225,414 (China/Hong Kong is the largest destination for U.S. pork variety meat). The corresponding dramatic decreases in values for feet and picnic hocks, combined with lower ham and picnic values, mean that retaliatory tariffs in China and Mexico resulted in lost value of $11.75 per head (or $860 million) from June through December 2018.
On the positive side, U.S. pork exports to Korea were record-shattering in 2018, soaring 40 percent year-over-year in volume (242,372 mt) and 41 percent in value ($670.3 million). Export value topped the previous record, set in 2011, by 35 percent as U.S. pork capitalized on Koreans’ surging pork consumption. Most U.S. pork now enters Korea duty-free under KORUS, making pork products more affordable and accessible and a perfect fit for Korean’s convenience-driven demand. Korea’s imports of U.S. pork variety meat jumped by 62 percent in volume (15,525 mt) and 68 percent in value ($45.9 million) as items such as bungs and feet made impressive gains.
Thursday march 7, 2019/ USMEF/ United States.