Export data for April released by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) show that 124,408t of beef was exported, the fifth-highest monthly figure on record.

Value exceeded $1bn (€960m) for the second time, the first being the previous month. For the period January to April 2022, exports were 5% higher than for the same period in 2021 at 478,260t.

Asia remains the key volume and value market for US beef exports.

Japan was the largest volume market in April, taking 26,663t, followed by South Korea, taking 23,212t, with China and Hong Kong just behind on 23,137t.


Mexico is the next most important market, taking 13,151t, though this includes a substantial quantity of variety or processed meats, while Canada took 8,681t.

The EU and UK remain small but growing markets for US beef exports.

In April 2022, they accounted for 1,868t of beef, which is substantially higher than the 1,063t in April 2021.


While US beef exports go from strength to strength, it is more of a struggle for pigmeat exports.

Volume for April was 212,876t, a 21% fall on the monthly value for April last year. This is because while China and Hong Kong is the main export market, taking 139,732t in April, this is a massive 56% lower than April 2021.

Outside of China, the picture is more positive. The next-largest export market is Mexico, taking 73,711t, a 9% increase on April last year. Exports to Japan also increased, up 5% in April to 34,682t.

The collapse in sales to China mirrors the experience of other exporters as China recovers greater self sufficiency following its African swine fever experience.


While the EU and UK aren’t major markets for US beef exports, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have relevance for Irish farmers.

Over the past decade, the common feature across global beef markets is how there are no really cheap beef-exporting regions in the world anymore.

That means the value secured by Irish exports to the UK and EU will be influenced by how the US is selling its beef in Asian and other North American markets.

For Irish pigmeat producers, global markets are an every-day given the volumes exported.

There is little consolation to be had from the US experience in China and the reality remains that while pig prices may have recovered somewhat, the rapid increase in feed and energy costs keeps the business in a loss-making position.