US meat exporters flagged the need to be "aggressive with
our marketing efforts" after data showed an accelerating decline in pork shipments
to the key Chinese market, where demand is being sapped by a recovery in domestic
The US Meat Export Federation, while terming April a "very
solid month for US red meat exports" - with overall beef shipments rising by
13% to 99,786 tonnes, and pork volumes by 8% to 203,091 tonnes – cautioned that
"we remain an extremely competitive situation across the world".
The industry "must stay aggressive with our marketing
efforts", Philip Sang, the federation's chief executive said.
"Our competitors… will quickly fill the void if we do not defend
our market share."
The group highlighted in particular the need to expand sales
of pork to markets other than China, by far the top consumer of the meat, in the
face of an accelerating drop in shipments to the destination.
Sales of pork to China, including Hong Kong, tumbled by 28%
to 26,786 tonnes in April, although the decline was in part offset by increased
sales of so-called "variety cuts", such as offal, reducing to 14% the overall
rate of decline in shipments of pig products.
The slowdown reflects a recovery in China's own production, which
is being encouraged by the dent to feed prices from the ditching of a guaranteed
corn price scheme, and moves to selldown huge government stocks.
"As China's domestic pork production rebounds, US pork
muscle cut exports to China/Hong Kong have trended below year-ago levels each
month in 2017," Usmef said.
"With exports to China/Hong Kong expected to face steeper
terrain in coming months as China's domestic hog prices continue to fall, other
destinations for US pork used for further processing take on added importance."
The federation flagged growth in shipments to the key
Mexican market, which lifted by 24% to 213,360 tonnes its imports of US pork in
the first four months of the year.
And it noted "impressive April results" for US sales to markets
including South Korea, which raised its purchases by 21% year on year to 14,585
tonnes, the Philippines, up 91% at 3,430 tonnes, and Australia, which lifted
imports by 11% to 5,485 tonnes.
"Colombia led a very strong month for pork exports to
Central and South America, with April exports to Colombia increasing 84% from a
year ago in volume," to 5,085 tonnes.
Chilled beef in
In beef, the federation flagged that "leading market Japan
continued to shine" in April, with US exports to the country up 15% at 23,540
"Growth to Japan has been driven by the surging volume of
chilled US beef, with the US capturing 52% of Japan's chilled imports" in the January-to-April
period, up from a 39% market share during the first four months of last year.
Beef exports to South Korea "cooled to some degree in April,
but remained above last year's strong pace", rising 8% to 11,837 tonnes.
"Similar to Japan, the driver of growth to Korea is in
chilled US beef," Usmef said.