Exports of U.S. pork lost momentum in May, falling below year-ago levels in both volume and value, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork exports totaled 184,865 metric tons in May, down 2 percent from a year ago, while value slipped 18 percent to $489.2 million. Through the first five months of 2015, pork exports were down 6 percent in volume (910,967 metric tons) and 15 percent in value ($2.4 billion) from the same period of 2014.

January-May pork exports equated to 25 percent of total production and 21 percent for muscle cuts only – down from 28 percent and 23 percent, respectively, a year ago. Pork export value per head slaughtered averaged $51.39, down 19 percent from the first five months of 2014.

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US pork exports to Japan, Mexico slip

After a relatively strong performance in April, pork exports to Japan and Mexico took a step back in May. Export volume to Japan dipped 9 percent from a year ago to 39,340 metric tons, while value was down 18 percent to $152.9 million. Through the first five months of the year, exports to Japan were down 11 percent in volume (189,188 metric tons) and 18 percent in value ($705.2 million).

May exports to Mexico were the lowest in 19 months at 53,186 metric tons, down 6 percent from a year ago. Export value fell by nearly one-third to $95.1 million. For January through May, exports to Mexico remained 5 percent ahead of last year’s pace in volume (291,184 metric tons) but were down 17 percent in value ($508.7 million), reflecting the decline in pork prices from last year’s record levels.

US pork exports to Korea

Exports to Korea cooled slightly in May but remain on a very strong pace, with volume up 38 percent to 95,686 metric tons and value up 37 percent to $285.1 million. Pork demand also took a short-term hit due to MERS, but should be strong in coming months as domestic production is taking longer than expected to recover from the impact of recent outbreaks of PEDV and FMD. Korea’s domestic pork carcass prices edged slightly lower June but still averaged $2.40 per pound – among the highest in the world.

Other Latin American destinations

Growth to Honduras and Guatemala offset smaller volumes to Colombia, resulting in steady volume to Central/South America (51,257 metric tons). Export value was down 3 percent to $132.8 million. The outlook for this region looks positive as exports to Colombia gained momentum in May and shipments to Honduras and Guatemala have surged even higher in recent weeks.

Chinese pork market

Limited access to China, which only a small number of U.S. pork plants are eligible to serve, continues to dampen exports to the China/Hong Kong region – a critical destination for selected pork and pork variety meat items, especially with China’s hog prices hitting multi-year highs. Export volume was down 21 percent from a year ago to 130,525 metric tons and value fell 26 percent to $273.6 million. The European Union is dominating the region’s imported pork market, accounting for nearly 70 percent of pork entering China/Hong Kong.