Exports weathering H1N1 influenza, economic crises

Jul 31, 2009
by WLJ
Exports weathering H1N1 influenza, economic crises

While May was expected to be the month in which U.S. pork exports were most affected by A-H1N1 influenza, the effect has not been as negative as some analysts had predicted, according to an analysis of USDA statistics by the U.S. Meat Export Federation. At the same time, U.S. beef exports for the first five months of 2009 remain roughly on par with 2008.

U.S. beef muscle cuts plus variety meat exports remain on a pace roughly equal to last year, totaling 358,190 metric tons (789.7 million pounds) valued at $1.2 billion through May. This represents a 1 percent increase in volume and a 3 percent decline in value compared to the same period in 2008. Individual market results have been extremely mixed, due in large part to the varied effect of the global economic recession. Despite limited market access for U.S. beef, Japan has increased its imports by 21 percent in volume to 29,198 metric tons (64.4 million pounds) and 22 percent in value ($152.6 million) over last year. Though Mexico remains the No. 1 destination for U.S. beef exports, a struggling economy— which suffered a further setback due to A-H1N1 influenza —has led to a 21 percent decline in U.S. beef exports there for a total of 128,875 metric tons (284.1 million pounds) and a 24 percent drop in value to $419.1 million.

In addition to Japan, beef exports have increased sharply to Vietnam (up 86 percent in volume and 124 percent in value over January-May of last year) and Hong Kong (up 41 percent in volume and 23 percent in value).

Other markets showing declines include Canada (down 11 percent in volume and 16 percent in value from 2008), Taiwan (down 10 percent in volume and value), and the Philippines (down 38 percent in volume and 32 percent in value). Russia’s imports of U.S. beef have increased 22 percent in volume but have declined 46 percent in value, as the market has shifted away from the U.S. muscle meats it was purchasing in large quantities last year and is now importing mostly variety meat. — WLJ