US Beef Exports Remain Sluggish

US - Exports of US beef and pork for the first six months of 2009 are lagging behind compared to last year's pace, due to a difficult global economic climate.
calendar icon 14 September 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

The most recent statistics released by USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) show that beef exports of 512,053 metric tons (1.13 billion pounds) valued at $1.944 billion are 6 per cent below last year’s volume and 10 per cent lower in value. This difference, however, is primarily due to a very sluggish global market for beef variety meat. Beef muscle cut exports of 338,217 metric tons (745.6 million pounds) are actually slightly above last year’s volume, while trailing in value ($1.445 billion versus $1.48 billion) by only 2 per cent.

Beef exports to Asia on the rise, but neighbouring markets lagging

Slow demand in Mexico and Canada and a steep decline in beef variety meat exports are the main factors keeping US beef exports below last year’s pace. January-July exports to Mexico reached only 180,350 metric tons (397.6 million pounds) valued at $570.7 million – which is 25 per cent below the 2008 volume and 31 per cent below last year’s value. This decline is particularly severe on the beef variety meat side, as beef variety meat exports to Mexico have dropped by 35 per cent in volume and 47 per cent in value.

Exports to Canada (about 84,000 metric tons or 185.2 million pounds, valued at $366.4 million) have fallen 12 per cent behind last year’s volume and by 18 per cent in value. This may be due in part to the steep decline (about 30 per cent from January through August) in live cattle exports from Canada to the US, though Canada’s domestic slaughter is also down by 1.5 per cent. “These results are disappointing, because our recent record of success in Mexico and Canada has been critical to the profitability of US cattlemen,” said USMEF Chairman-elect Jim Peterson, a cattle producer from Buffalo, Mont. “We need to see better demand for US beef in these markets, and hopefully the recent strengthening of the peso and especially the Canadian dollar will drive some improvement in the coming months.”

US beef continues to rebuild its presence in Asia, led by an 18 per cent increase in Japan over January-July 2008 and a dramatic increase in exports to Hong Kong. The July total for Hong Kong of 2,756 metric tons (6.1 million pounds) valued at $9.6 million was more than five times the volume and more than four times the value achieved in July 2008, pushing 2009 exports 111 per cent above last year’s volume and 60 per cent above last year’s value.

January-July exports to Taiwan are still down slightly from last year, but showing signs of recovery. July exports to Taiwan reached their second-highest monthly total of the year, and July was only the second month in which 2009 exports to Taiwan exceeded the corresponding month’s total from 2008.

Beef exports to Vietnam have increased 38 per cent in volume and 59 per cent in value over January-July of 2008. July was the second consecutive month, however, in which exports to Vietnam were lower than the corresponding 2008 total. January through July exports to South Korea totaled 28,440 metric tons (or 62.7 million pounds) valued at $111.1 million. But their pace has also slowed, with the July volume being the smallest since the market reopened last year.

In terms of total US production, beef plus beef variety meat exports are accounting for about the same percentage as last year – 9.8 per cent in January-July 2009, compared to 10 per cent during the same period in 2008.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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