At the start of this year, we discussed beef exports as a key question and component to how markets will behave in 2018 (see HERE). With the release of the March export data, we now have the first quarter of that question and the results are encouraging. Beef and veal exports during the month of March totaled approximately 260 million pounds. This is an 11.4 percent increase over March of 2017 and it follows increases in January and February. Year-to-date, exports are 12.2 percent higher than the first quarter of 2017.
This is encouraging news because export totals were large in 2017, too. So, the increases this year are in addition to what were viewed as big numbers from last year. South Korea was the second largest export market during March with just over 49 million pounds. This is a 38 percent increase over March of 2017. Japan was again the number one market with 75.6 million pounds which was about 1.6 percent above March of 2017. Exports to Mainland China totaled about 1.2 million pounds.
The continuation of strong exports is welcome news to the U.S. beef industry in this time of larger supplies. In 2017, larger than expected export totals lowered the amount of beef disappearance per person in the U.S. which provided some support to beef prices. Whether or not that will be the case for 2018 remains to be seen, but the first three months have been a good start.