Domestic production increases and foreign demand drove U.S. beef and pork exports higher in 2018 according to the USDA Economic Research Service. Beef exports increased 10.3 percent last year, the third consecutive year of increases. The growth was driven most notably by increases in exports to South Korea, 35 percent larger than that shipped in 2017.
For the nation’s largest beef exporter, Nebraska, increased beef exports is welcome news and most likely helped offset export weakness in other commodities such as soybeans. Last week’s news that Japan will remove age restrictions on imports of U.S. beef could boost U.S. exports to that country by $200 million. This could mean there’s a good chance beef exports will grow again this year.
U.S. pork exports increased 4.2 percent last year, despite reduced exports to Mexico, the U.S.’s largest pork market. Pork exports to Mexico fell after tariffs were imposed on pork shipments from the U.S. in retaliation to U.S. tariffs on Mexican steel and aluminum. The announcement the U.S. will remove its tariffs on Mexican imports should help port exports grow this year too. Increased pork trade could also come through passage of USMCA.
Figure 2. Percent Change in Exports, 2018 vs. 2017