Export slump continues

Aug 21, 2009
by WLJ
Export slump continues

The lingering global economic slump and low prices for domestic beef and pork products in key export markets contributed to declines in both U.S. beef and pork exports in June, while lamb exports continue to enjoy a strong year, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

“The H1N1 influenza virus has been an important factor for U.S. pork exports,” said Jon Caspers, USMEF chairman and a pork producer from Swaledale, IA. “We have had market access issues in two of our top six pork export markets (China and Russia), which makes it all the more important to maintain a strong presence in our other key markets.”

To ensure that U.S. red meat products maintain a high profile in key markets, USMEF is employing a variety of tactics to support beef and pork exports.

“In challenging economic conditions like these, there is no one silver bullet that will drive exports, so we are looking at a whole spectrum of marketing and education programs that can be tailored to the specific market,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. Beef (combined muscle cuts and variety meat) exports have fared slightly better than pork, declining 2 percent in volume and 6 percent in value for the first half of 2009, reaching 435,260 metric tons (959.6 million pounds) valued at almost $1.5 billion. For the month, beef export volumes slipped 13 percent and the value fell 16 percent.

The success of beef muscle cuts vs. variety meat is the opposite of pork: beef muscle cut exports have increased 4 percent over the first half of 2009 to 284,388 metric tons (almost 627 million pounds) valued at $1.2 billion—a 1 percent increase over 2008. And for the month of June, beef muscle cuts increased 2.5 percent in volume while the value slipped just over 4 percent. This was the largest monthly beef muscle cut export volume since last October.

Of the leading U.S. beef (muscle cuts plus variety meat) export markets, Japan has been the biggest bright spot, increasing 9.6 percent in volume and 9.7 percent in value during June vs. one year ago. For the first six months of the year, beef export volume to Japan is up 17 percent to 40,316 metric tons (88.9 million pounds) valued at $209.4 million—an 18 percent hike. Japan is the No. 3 market for U.S. beef in terms of value, and No. 4 in volume.

The top destination for U.S. beef, Mexico, continues to struggle with its economic recovery. Total beef exports to Mexico were down 27 percent in volume in June and are off 22 percent for the first half of 2009, reaching 155,439 metric tons (342.7 million pounds) valued at $498 million for the first six months.

The No. 2 export market for U.S. beef, Canada, saw volumes slip 5 percent in June. For the year, export volume is down 10 percent to 71,303 metric tons valued at $309.8 million, a 15 percent dip. — WLJ