CME: April Red Meat and Poultry Exports Mixed

US - USDA’s monthly report of meat and poultry exports indicates that shipments for April were mixed across the three largest species with pork exports smaller, beef exports larger and chicken exports up very slightly for the month, write Steve Meyer and Len Steiner.
calendar icon 12 June 2012
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Some key items from Monday’s release are:

  • Pork exports dropped from 486.6 million pounds, carcass weight, in March to 450.6 million pounds in April. The April total, however, was 6.9 per cent higher than one year ago, breaking a monthly trend toward smaller and smaller year-on-year changes. Recall that March pork exports were, in fact, 0.8 per cent SMALLER than on year earlier. April pork production was 2.9 per cent higher than one year earlier, so exports actually increased as a share of total production this year.

  • US exporters shipped pork products worth $444.3 million in April. That figure is 1.8 per cent higher than last year and brings the YTD total to $1.899 billion, 15.7 per cent higher than in 2011. Variety meat exports, though down in volume by 13 per cent through April, have increase sharply in value, gaining 26 per cent so far in 2012.

  • Japan and Mexico remain the two largest customers for US pork with China/Hong Kong remaining in third position. April exports to Japan were 6.2 per cent smaller than one year ago while shipments to Mexico and China/HK were up 32 per cent and 124 per cent, respectively.
  • Year-to-date US pork exports remain well above (+13.5 per cent) last year though that percentage is getting progressively smaller each month.

  • Beef exports grew, month-on-month, in April to 207.8 million pounds carcass weight. That figure is 6.8 per cent larger than the March total but 6.9 per cent lower than one year ago. YTD beef exports now stand at 766.2 million pounds, carcass, down 10.5 per cent from 2011.

  • As can be seen below, the “clustering” of US beef customers continues with all of the major markets except Russia taking between 25 and 35 million pounds of US beef in April. And Russia moved closer to joining this group with a sharp increase in purchases to a monthly record of 21.065 million pounds. South Korea was the largest destination for US beef in April, followed closely by Mexico, Canada and Japan.
  • The value of April beef exports was $413.9 million, 9.2 per cent higher than last year. YTD beef export value stands at $1.495 billion, 4.7 per cent higher than in 2011.

  • Chicken exports amounted to 598.4 million pounds in April, 20.4 per cent higher than last year. That stellar month pushed YTD US chicken shipments to 2.335 billion pounds, ready-to-cook weight, 15.2 per cent higher than last year.

  • Mexico remained the largest individual-country destination for US chicken in April while Russia and the other former Soviet republlics ranked second and third, respectively, and led the pack in year-to-date growth at +106 per cent and +150 per cent, respectively.

A huge question is whether total US pork exports can keep up with the 2011 pace as we get into the summer and fall months and begin comparing this year’s shipments to 2011’s surge driven by China/HK. That depends greatly, of course, on the level that China/HK exports find for the remainder of 2012 but the past three months suggest some stability may be being established at about 74 million pounds, carcass weight, per month.

If that level of shipments persists for the remainder of 2012, total annual shipments to China/HK will end the year 11.6 per cent LARGER than in 2011. Or, shipments to China/HK can drop to 62 million pounds, carcass weight, per month for the rest of 2012 and still match the 815.9 million pounds shipped to these markets last year. The flip side of these hopeful argument is, or course, that product out-shipments from August through December will still be, under either scenario, much smaller than last year — at a time when US pork production is expected to increase by 2.5 to 3.5 per cent.

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