Coronavirus slowed U.S. exports of beef and pork in May

Beef exports were the smallest in 10 years during May and pork exports were the lowest in seven months, “due in part to interruptions in slaughter and processing” during the month, said the U.S. Meat Export Federation. For January through May, beef exports suffered only marginally and pork was up sharply from a year earlier.

“As protective measures related to Covid-19 were being implemented, plant disruptions peaked in early May with a corresponding temporary slowdown in exports,” said Chief executive Dan Halstrom in a monthly summary of red meat exports. May is the most recent month with reliable data. Exports should regain momentum in the second half of this year, as production recovers at meat plants, he said.

In May, beef exports slumped to 79,280 tonnes worth $480 million — a decline of one-third for both measurements from a year ago. But for the January-May period, beef exports were down only 3 percent from last year in volume, and 5 percent in value to $3.1 billion.

Even with the plant shutdowns, pork exports in May were up 12 percent from a year ago. But they were down 13 percent  from their January-March average, to 243,823 tonnes, worth $621 million.

Pork exports for January-May were up 37 percent, from a year earlier. Pork exports to China are triple the pace of 2019.

Meanwhile, the Peterson Institute for International Economics said Chinese purchases of U.S. food, agricultural and seafood products languish far behind the targets set in the “phase one” Sino-US trade agreement. Through May, China reported imports of $7.5 billion of the goods, compared to its pledge to buy $36.6 billion this year. The think tank’s figures are based on Chinese government reports of food, agricultural and seafood imports.