U.S. Pork Exports to Mexico Set Annual Record

Led by a record-shattering performance in Mexico and broad-based growth in other markets, U.S. pork exports set a value record in 2023, according to year-end data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Mexico was again the star performer, setting records for volume (105,451 mt) and value ($233.8 million). December pork exports climbed nearly 10% from a year ago to 268,399 metric tons (mt), the largest since May 2021 and the eighth largest on record.

According to USMEF, export value increased 11% to $765.8 million, the highest since May 2021 and the third highest on record. The strong December results pushed 2023 export value to a record $8.16 billion, up 6% from 2022.

“2023 saw tremendous growth in global demand for U.S. pork, and it came at a time when the U.S. industry needed it most,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “The expansion of U.S. pork’s presence in Mexico has been remarkable, but the great news certainly doesn’t end there. We are very encouraged by the robust demand we’ve seen throughout the Western Hemisphere and in several Asia-Pacific markets as well.”

December was another outstanding month for pork exports to Mexico, which climbed 17% year-over-year to 105,451 mt, breaking the previous monthly record (October 2023) by 5%. Export value increased 18% to $233.8 million, topping the previous record (November 2023) by 6%.

The report shows that 2023 exports to Mexico were record-large in volume (1.1 million mt, up 14%) and value ($2.35 billion, up 15%). While pork muscle cuts accounted for more than 85% of the export volume to Mexico, pork variety meats posted impressive gains in 2023, climbing 28% to 159,508 mt, valued at $302 million (up 34%).

Related Article: Research on Eating at Home Reveals New Consumer Trends

In addition, pork exports to Central America in December, driven by solid growth in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, rose 20% to a record 18,121 mt, valued at $53.3 million (up 19%).

Last year, exports were the second largest on record at 137,469 mt, up 15% from 2022 and down just 1.5% from the 2021 record.

Although December pork exports to the Dominican Republic were below the large year-ago totals, 2023 exports still reached new highs for both volume (99,610 mt, up 16% from 2022) and value ($276.2 million, up 18%). Domestic production challenges related to African swine fever (ASF) have provided a tailwind for U.S. exports to the DR. Still, pork demand has also surged at retail and foodservice, buoyed by an impressive post-COVID rebound in tourism.

Other 2023 results for U.S. pork exports include:

  • Led by excellent growth in Chile and Peru and a fourth quarter rebound in leading market Colombia, pork exports to South America increased 2% in volume (118,660 mt) and 10% in value ($340.6 million) over 2022.

    After a slow start to the year, shipments to Colombia regained momentum and reached 98,876 mt, down 3% year-over-year, while value increased 10% to a record $272 million. Exports to Chile climbed 39% to 15,733 mt, valued at $53.1 million (up 11%), while shipments to Peru increased 23% to 2,298 mt, valued at $6.5 million (up 17%).  
  • Despite a slight decline in shipments to leading market China, pork variety meat exports reached new heights in 2023, climbing 9% year-over-year to 585,806 mt, valued at $1.37 billion (up 7%).

    In addition to outstanding growth in Mexico, the variety of meat exports also increased impressively to the ASEAN, Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Taiwan. China remained the largest destination for variety meat shipments at 335,591 mt (down 1% from 2022), valued at $854.6 million (up 1%).
  • December pork exports to South Korea surged 64% from a year ago to 23,912 mt – the largest in over four years. Export value climbed 69% to $81.9 million, the highest in over five years and the third highest on record.

    These results pushed 2023 exports 9% above the previous year at 191,262 mt, the third largest on record. Export value increased 4% to $633.4 million, the second highest on record.
  • With shipments nearly doubling to both Australia and New Zealand, pork exports to Oceania rebounded strongly in 2023. Exports to the region were the largest since 2020, increasing 98% year-over-year to 79,718 mt, while value climbed 79% to $283.5 million.

    Due to product restrictions, most pork shipments to Oceania are raw materials for further processing. However, the region also has a growing appetite for value-added U.S. processed products.
  • Led by higher volumes to the Philippines and Vietnam and surging demand in Malaysia, pork exports to the ASEAN reached 64,158 mt in 2023, up 22% year-over-year. Export value declined slightly, falling 4% to $150 million.

    Exports to Malaysia, where ASF has weighed heavily on domestic production, soared by nearly 1,700% to 5,170 mt, valued at $16.3 million (up more than 1,500%). Malaysia’s imports of European pork were also record-large, topping 44,000 mt through November.
  • Though pork exports to Japan trended modestly lower in 2023, December shipments increased 9% year-over-year to 26,826 mt, valued at $111.5 million (up 11%). For the full year, exports declined 4% to 342,163 mt.

    While export value fell 5% to $1.4 billion, Japan is the second highest value destination for U.S. pork, trailing only Mexico.