September Beef Exports Struggling

US - September beef plus beef variety meat exports were down slightly from August, with the January-September cumulative total falling further behind last year’s pace, as beef exports continue to struggle amid market access restrictions and difficult global economic conditions.
calendar icon 18 November 2009
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Market access issues, sluggish variety meat demand hamper beef exports

September beef plus beef variety meat exports were down 25 per cent in volume and 34 per cent in value from September 2008, bringing the cumulative total for the year to 660,459 metric tons (1.46 billion pounds) valued at $2.28 billion. This is 12 per cent below last year’s pace in volume and 17 per cent lower in value.

Much of the decline is attributable to the weak global market for beef variety meat, as January-September variety meat exports of 214,717 metric tons (473.4 million pounds) valued at $378 million trail last year’s totals by 22 per cent in volume and 39 per cent in value. Muscle cut exports have fared better, but still trail their 2008 pace by six per cent in volume and 11 per cent in value.

Beef exports to Japan (69,945 metric tons or 154.2 million pounds valued at nearly $360 million) are 22 per cent higher in volume and 21 per cent higher in value than last year. September exports continued to outperform 2008, but at a slightly slower pace due to the seasonal decline in availability of slaughter-ready cattle under 21 months of age.

“We are encouraged by the demand US beef is generating in Japan, and the fact that importers, retailers and consumers are clamoring for our product,” USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng said. “But this surge in demand further highlights the need for expanded access in the market if we are going to fully rebuild the presence of US beef in Japan.”

Taiwan, where US beef exports had been slumping early in the year, continued its rebound in September with exports exceeding September 2008 by 26 per cent in volume and 63 per cent in value. These results pulled Taiwan to within 1 per cent of the export value achieved in the first three quarters of 2008.

Hong Kong continued its remarkable surge in imports of US beef in September, surpassing the September 2008 total by 88 per cent in volume and 74 per cent in value. Through September, exports to Hong Kong are up 110 per cent in volume and 78 per cent in value. September exports to Vietnam were down compared to September 2008, but are still up 23 per cent in volume and 30 per cent in value for the year.

Encouraging performances in these markets have been offset by declines in Mexico, Canada and Russia. Exports to Mexico are down 28 per cent in volume and 36 per cent in value compared to the first three quarters of 2008, while exports to Canada are down 10 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively. Exports to Russia have declined by 47 per cent in value and 69 per cent in value, with muscle cut exports plummeting nearly 80 per cent.

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