U.S. red meat exports had a strong finish to the third quarter, according to data compiled by USDA agencies (Foreign Agriculture Service and the Economic Research Service). Beef exports are leading the way. In the third quarter, U.S. beef and veal exports on a carcass weight rose by 11% year-over-year, stretching the double-digit growth out to its third consecutive quarter. Double-digit percentage increases in beef export tonnage have been posted for eight of the last ten quarters. Pork exports were up 5% this quarter, a small drop from the gains of 6% in both the earlier quarters this year. Lamb exports increased 6% year-over-year in the third quarter, the lowest quarterly increase so far this year (the first and second quarters posted jumped-up by 67% and 40%, respectively).
U.S. poultry exports have struggled. Broiler exports, the biggest category, was the only category to show positive gains in the third quarter, rising 8% year-over-year. Other chicken exports fell 27%, the smallest decline so far this year. First quarter other chicken exports were down 30% and second quarter was down 43%. Turkey exports have fared only slightly better. Third quarter posted a 16% drop, on the heels of a 1% decline in the second quarter and a 15% gain in the first quarter.
Compared to a year ago, beef imports were down 1% in both the third and second quarters of 2018. Pork imports dropped by 13% in the third quarter, following a 4% decline from 2017’s level for the second quarter. Both beef and pork imports were up year-over-year in the first quarters of 2018 (up 3% and 6% respectively). Lamb imports increased 2% in the latest quarter. Broiler imports surged 28%, while turkey gained a modest 3% from last year. Other chicken imports have been down all year; the third quarter was down 31%.
Strength in red meat exports has been a bright spot this year, especially for beef. Next year is expected to bring further gains in production of beef and pork, but it seems unlikely beef exports will be able to maintain double-digit growth into 2019. The significant headwinds are a strengthening U.S. dollar, softer economic growth in Asian countries, and tariff levels. LMIC forecasts 2019 beef exports to be up about 2% on the year, and pork exports to rise near 3%.