May Beef Export Results Mixed

US - Although May was the strongest month so far this year for US beef exports, volume (209 million pounds) was down 13 per cent compared to May 2011 and stood 10 per cent lower (one billion pounds) through the first five months of the year.
calendar icon 13 July 2012
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Beef export value in May ($471.1 million) was four per cent higher than a year ago, which kept year-to-date export value ($2.19 billion) five per cent ahead of last year’s record pace. These results are based on statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), contractor to the Beef Checkoff Programme.

With the April 24 announcement of the fourth BSE case in the United States, May was the first month in which any BSE-related decline could be detected in export statistics. May beef exports did not reveal a major impact, though global totals were likely affected to some degree by the market closure in Saudi Arabia and negative media coverage in some Asian markets.

While year-to-date exports to Korea were down 24 per cent in volume (128 million pounds) and 17 per cent in value ($273.1 million), May results were higher (+ five per cent in volume, +13 pe rcent in value) in both categories. The main factors impacting US beef exports to Korea in 2012 are an oversupply of domestic beef and a slumping Korean currency; Australia’s beef exports to Korea have also declined by about one-third compared to last year.

In several major markets, beef export volume has slowed moderately compared to the first five months of last year but increases in export value were still achieved. Examples include:

Japan, where volume was down six per cent to 124 million pounds but value was 13 per cent higher at $370.7 million. In May, Japan was the largest destination for US beef with the highest export volume (35 million pounds) in 10 months. Export value was up 28 per cent from May 2011 to $105.3 million. Regulatory officials in Japan continue to examine the 20-month cattle age limit on beef imported from the United States, Canada and the European Union, but have so far enacted no change in the policy.

In Canada, the only billion-dollar market for US beef in 2011, export volume was down seven per cent to 141 million pounds but value was up 10 per cent to $404.5 million.

In the Middle East, export volume was down seven per cent to 132 million pounds while value was up 10 per cent to $138.1 million. Although Saudi Arabia was the only country in this region to close to US beef due to the BSE case, confusion regarding possible restrictions (which never materialized) in some other markets may have affected May results. Despite these issues, however, May export volume (28 million pounds) to the region was the largest since January.

In the ASEAN region, export volume (57 million pounds) was down 12 per cent while value ($112.3 million) was 13 per cent higher. This trend was made possible by a surge in export value to the two largest markets, Viet Nam (+21 per cent to $82.6 million) and the Philippines (+31 percent to $18.9 million).

In Hong Kong, where US exports are still limited to boneless muscle cuts from cattle under 30 months of age, export volume (43 million pounds) was down 15 per cent while export value ($112.9 million) was 12 per cent higher. May export volume to Hong Kong (10 million pounds) was the largest monthly total of the year.

Two regions in which US beef exports are surging in both volume and value are Russia and Central and South America. Though export activity to Russia has slowed in recent weeks, January-May exports were 24 per cent ahead of last year’s record pace in volume (71 million pounds) and 83 per cent higher in value ($138.8 million). Bolstered by terrific growth in Chile, exports to Central and South America were up 42 per cent in volume (32 million pounds) and 83 per cent in value ($53.8 million).

US beef exports to Taiwan have slowed dramatically. Exports in May were down about 90 per cent from last year, while year-to-date exports were 54 per cent lower in volume (13 million pounds) and 47 per cent lower in value ($39 million). While the Taiwanese government is expected to take action soon on a maximum residue level (MRL) for ractopamine in imported beef, US beef sales likely face a lengthy recovery due to the political controversy surrounding this issue.

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