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The U.S. pork and beef industries have reported impressive gains in international trade during the first half of 2023, showcasing resilience and expansion despite challenges. Recent data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) reveals a positive trajectory for both sectors.

Pork Exports Surge and Diversify

U.S. pork exports have experienced a robust first half of the year, with June showcasing another strong performance. While falling short of the record-breaking pace set in 2022, June's pork exports amounted to an impressive 245,964 metric tons, marking a notable 12% increase compared to the same period the previous year. This surge in exports translated to a 6% climb in export value, reaching $691.4 million.

For the entirety of the first half of 2023, pork exports painted a similar picture of growth. Export volumes surged by 14%, totaling 1.47 million metric tons compared to the previous year. In terms of export value, an impressive $4.05 billion was achieved, marking a commendable 12% increase.

A noteworthy highlight in the pork industry's success story is the exceptional performance of pork exports to Mexico, which soared to a record-breaking pace. The first half of 2023 witnessed a remarkable 21% increase in value, surpassing $1 billion. The ASEAN region, Australia, Taiwan, the Dominican Republic, and Chile also reported significant year-over-year export increases. Notably, there were also gains in crucial markets such as China/Hong Kong, South Korea, and Central America.

Pork variety meat exports emerged as a particularly bright spot, soaring by an impressive 32% in the first half of the year. Notably, these gains were driven by substantial shipments to China, which reached record-high levels.

Dan Halstrom, President and CEO of USMEF, expressed his excitement over the growth trajectory of the U.S. pork industry, highlighting the widespread international expansion and the industry's positive positioning for continued momentum in the latter half of the year.

Resilience in Beef Exports

In the beef sector, while facing some challenges, U.S. exports have demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability. June 2023 saw beef exports totaling 115,107 metric tons, representing a 12% decrease from the previous year. Despite this dip, the export value remained strong at $909.5 million, marking a 13% year-over-year decline but still the highest since October. Notably, the value was also 4% above the figures posted in May.

During the first half of the year, beef exports faced a 10% decline compared to the record-setting pace of the previous year, with export volumes totaling 669,176 metric tons. Despite this drop, export value managed to reach nearly $5 billion, showcasing an 8% increase compared to the first half of 2021.

Taiwan emerged as a highlight in the beef export landscape, recording the largest exports in 14 months during June. Mexico also displayed an encouraging momentum, while shipments to Canada, Hong Kong, South Africa, and the Dominican Republic posted significant year-over-year gains. Although exports to South Korea, China, and Japan were lower than the previous year's figures, improvements in value, especially in the case of Japan, offered promising signs.

Dan Halstrom noted the challenging nature of the first half for beef exports, particularly in comparison to the exceptional performance of the previous year. However, he emphasized that despite these challenges, exports remained a crucial driver of beef production and value enhancement, indicating the vital role they play in optimizing beef carcass value.

In conclusion, the first half of 2023 has presented a tale of growth, adaptability, and resilience for both the U.S. pork and beef industries. Despite facing certain challenges and fluctuating market dynamics, these sectors have managed to sustain and even expand their global footprint. With strong momentum observed across various international markets, the second half of the year holds promise for continued success and growth.