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US Beef Export Values Reach Record Highs

25 October 2012

US - Both the tonnage and dollar value of US sales surged in 2011, setting all-time highs. But, tonnage has slipped in 2012 due to record high wholesale prices and slowing economic growth in some key countries. Still, exports this calendar year may be the second highest ever. Japan is has returned as a major US market and could continue to grow in 2013, reports the Livestocm Marketing Information Centre.

Recently, USDA-ERS reported the official carcass weight equivalent export data for August which showed beef sales were down 14 per cent from a year ago.

Year-to-date, beef export tonnage was down about 12 per cent or 227 million pounds. Most of the declines so far this year have been in tonnage sold to Canada, Taiwan, Mexico, and South Korea. Importantly, purchases of US beef by Japan have gained momentum in 2012. In August, the Japanese purchased 24 per cent more US beef than a year earlier.

In the first three months of this year, Mexico was the largest US foreign market on a tonnage basis. In April, South Korea led the way. Then from May through August, Japan jumped into first place. This year Canada has usually been the second biggest market. The scope of major markets buying US beef has expanded in recent years; no longer do purchases by one country dominate.

Japan has regained its status as the largest market for US beef. Twenty five years ago (1987) Japan represented 64 per cent of US beef exports and by 2003 (prior to BSE being found in the US) they were 36 per cent. In 2004, US tonnage sold to Japan was only three per cent of total exports, but by 2011 they had climbed back to 16 per cent.

It’s been a long time coming, but in recent months Japan officially began the process to remove their last BSE-era restriction. Currently Japan only allows US beef from animals under 21-months of age, rather than the international standard of 30-months and less. If the Japanese government agencies stay on the recent timeline, US export tonnage to that country will likely continue to gain during 2013.

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