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Beef slumps while pork exports surge

For the first six months of the year, exports of American beef tumbled by 15%, probably due to COVID-19 turmoil, while pork exports soared by 28% compared with 2019 levels, said the USDA on Tuesday. Large shipments to China were the primary factor in the surge in pork shipments, said the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook.

Beef exports to the three largest markets — Japan, Mexico, and South Korea — were down sharply in May and June, “due to COVID-19 outbreaks in U.S. beef processing plants” in late April and early May, said the monthly Outlook. The slowdown in cattle slaughter constricted the supply while raising prices, a combination that made U.S. beef less attractive.

In contrast, pork exports are on track to set a record this year, said the U.S. Meat Export Federation. “With China’s pork industry still dealing with the impact of African swine fever (ASF), we expect demand from China/Hong Kong to remain strong through the end of this year and into 2021,” said Dan Halstrom, chief executive of the trade group. June was the first month of the year to see pork exports dip below the year-earlier figures.

“Weekly U.S. export data suggest an upward trend in demand in most markets, and with production recovering, the United States has regained its supply advantage. So we expect beef and pork exports to regain momentum in the second half of the year,” said Halstrom.

The USDA said first-half exports of broiler meat, eggs and egg products, and dairy were above 2019 levels. Like beef, turkey exports were down.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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