November exports of U.S. pork and beef reached their highest monthly volumes in more than two years, according to results compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Pork exports totaled 177,203 metric tons valued at $443.4 million — increases of 5 percent in volume and 15 percent in value over November 2009.

For January through November, exports were up 2 percent in volume (1.73 million metric tons) and 10 percent in value ($4.34 billion). The cumulative value total is just 4 percent below the all-time record pace set in the first 11 months of 2008.

For the year, exports accounted for 23.6 percent of production with a per-head value equivalent of $43.61 ($44.80 in November alone). For the same period in 2009, exports equated to 22.5 percent of production with a per-head value of $38.42. In the record export year of 2008, the per-head value was $42.30.

Beef export value in November was $389.5 million, an increase of nearly 50 percent over November 2009. By volume (101,323 metric tons), beef exports exceeded the year-ago level by 32 percent. For the first 11 months of 2010, exports were 18 percent above 2009 in terms of volume (964,369 metric tons) and 30 percent higher by value ($3.67 billion).

The value total is about 1 percent ahead of the 2003 pace when beef exports went on to set a single-year record of $3.86 billion.

Exports accounted for 11.6 percent of production with a per-head value equivalent of $150.36 ($178. 20 in November) — up dramatically from the 2009 totals of 9.8 percent and $117.80.

One of best on record

"November was clearly one of the best months on record for U.S. meat exports," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "With economies improving throughout the world, U.S. pork and beef are well-positioned for strong growth. We worked through some very difficult economic circumstances in 2009, but we're now seeing those persistent marketing efforts pay big dividends as exports are adding more and more value to every animal produced."

January-November exports to Japan, the leading value destination for U.S. pork, broke the $1.5 billion mark for the third consecutive year, exceeding the previous year's pace by 6 percent. In terms of volume (397,528 metric tons), exports to Japan are up 2 percent.

Mexico is the leading volume destination at 491,314 metric tons — up 9 percent and just short of the single-year record. Export value to Mexico has already set a new record of $890.6 million.

Pork exports to Canada for the year are up 7 percent in volume (164,767 metric tons) and 18 percent in value ($562.6 million). Despite a down year for Vietnam, exports to the ASEAN region - led by strong results in the Philippines and Singapore — are up 19 percent in volume (62,006 metric tons) and 32 percent in value ($125.1 million).

Beef exports performed extremely well in virtually all major markets throughout 2010, with the exception being Mexico — the largest foreign destination for U.S. beef. But November signaled a positive turnaround for beef exports to Mexico, exceeding year-ago levels by 13 percent in volume (13,647 metric tons) and more than 30 percent in value ($79.6 million).

For the year, exports to Mexico remain lower by 16 percent in volume (224,146 metric tons) and 12 percent in value ($735.5 million).

South Korea remains the fourth-largest market for U.S. beef, but export growth in Korea has been remarkable.

With the help of a marketing campaign that was implemented just over a year ago in an effort to rebuild consumer confidence, U.S. exports to Korea have more than doubled in volume (101,252 metric tons) and grown by 152 percent in value to $468.7 million.

"Korea is going through a difficult time right now, with a severe foot-and-mouth (FMD) outbreak," Seng said. "But consumers are well-educated about the disease and know that neither imported nor domestic meat products pose any health threat to them. We've seen demand remain strong throughout the crisis."

Seng added that while USMEF and its marketing partners are conducting regularly scheduled promotions in Korea, discretion is very important during the FMD outbreak. "This is not a time for countries that export to Korea to cast doubt on the safety of their domestic products or to try to take undue advantage of the situation," he said. "We must maintain consumer confidence in the safety of meat or we will all suffer a setback."

U.S. lamb exports have not shared in the momentum enjoyed by pork and beef. Through the first 11 months of 2010, lamb exports are 7 percent lower by volume (9,470 metric tons) and 26 percent lower in value ($18.7 million). Mexico remains the leading volume market and has surpassed the Caribbean as the top value destination. Other markets showing promising growth in 2010 include Costa Rica, Panama, Hong Kong and Singapore.