CME: US Exports Remain Strong

US - The latest trade data issued by the US Census Bureau on 12 April confirmed private trade estimates of strong US meat exports so far this year, writes Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.
calendar icon 14 April 2011
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February shipments of US beef, pork and chicken all increased compared to year-ago levels and in all three cases there was one common driver for much of that increase: South Korea.

While we have been talking about strong exports of beef and pork to South Korea (due in large part to the impact of an FMD outbreak in that country) it is important to note that chicken exports to South Korea accounted for much of the volume growth in the sector.

Beef exports to South Korea in February were reported at 14,554 metric tons (MT), 9,617MT or 195 per cent higher than the comparable month a year ago. Total US beef exports in February were 65,048MT, 13,260MT or 27 per cent higher than a year ago. So even though South Korea accounted for just 22 per cent of all US beef shipments, it contributed 70 per cent to overall growth in beef exports.

Shipments to Japan at 9,296MT rose by 4,222MT or 83 per cent. Two markets showed significant declines in purchases of US beef – Viet Nam and Taiwan.

Shipments to Viet Nam tend to be somewhat erratic so one should not read too much in this months data while exports to Taiwan have softened considerably as processors there balk at paying significantly higher prices for US beef.

Pork exports in February also were higher than a year ago but the picture was somewhat mixed given sharp declines in a number of markets.

As the first chart shows, South Korea accounted for much of the growth in pork exports. Total shipments of fresh/frozen and processed pork to the Korean market in February were reported to be 16,782MT, 10,805MT or 181 per cent higher than a year ago.

Total pork exports for the month were 131,547MT, 8,840MT or seven per cent higher than a year ago.

The growth in exports to Korea and Japan offset declines in shipments to Canada, Taiwan, Mexico and other smaller markets. Total pork shipments to Mexico were 29,338MT, four per cent lower than a year ago, while exports to a host of smaller markets (marked 'other' in the chart) were 19,319MT, 4,755MT or 20 per cent lower than a year ago.

There has been plenty of speculation that sharply higher pork prices could lead to some demand destruction for pork exports and the February data provided some evidence of that.

And as for chicken exports, total shipments in February were pegged at 227,197MT, 25,393MT or 13 per cent higher than a year ago. Chicken exports to South Korea were 9,945MT, 101 per cent higher than a year ago. Chicken exports to South Korea made up only 4 per cent of all US exports but accounted for 20 per cent of the growth.

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