USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) published the U.S. monthly meat and poultry trade data for April. Those data are on a carcass weight equivalent basis. Both beef and pork export tonnage exceeded expectations, while chicken remained lackluster. Beef posted the largest April on record on a tonnage basis, surpassing 2017 by 16%. Pork tonnage posted the largest month ever, coming in at 548 million pounds, with strong gains to Mexico, which was up 41% compared to a year ago.
ERS reported that the U.S. sold beef directly to 93 different countries during April. In order of size, the top six destinations were: Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Canada, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Year-over-year, large percentage gains occurred to Mexico (rising 31%), Taiwan (up 19%), Canada (increasing 11%), and Japan (up 9%). Values also increased, up 20% for beef and variety meat exports during April.
During April, ERS reported pork exports went to 76 different countries. Pork export trends by country were mixed even though the total increase in tonnage was large, up 18% year over year. Pork exports saw decreases from Hong Kong (-68%), Taiwan (-44%) Japan (-8%), and Canada (-5%). Increases were led by Mexico on a tonnage basis up 53 million pounds (up 41%), followed by South Korea gaining 32 million pounds (up 70%), and other countries bought 17 million pounds more compared to last year. Sales to Caribbean countries also had a small increase. The value of fresh, frozen and chilled also climbed and was up 14% on April 2017, totaling $480 million for the month of April.
April data precludes many of the new announcements that were made regarding tariffs on pork from Mexico and is likely too early to see changes from China’s new tariff regime. New trade policies from U.S. trade partners are difficult to assess because there are so many moving parts in these dynamic markets. Exchange rates, individual product elasticities, and relative values to other countries create a moving target to forecast.