Export levels continue rebound

Jan 22, 2010
by WLJ

U.S. beef and pork exports continued their rebound from the slump earlier in the year, with pork exports reaching their highest level of 2009 in November while beef exports edged 4 percent above year-ago levels, according to statistics released last week by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (US- MEF). In addition, lamb exports maintained their pace for an outstanding year.

For the month, total pork (muscle cuts plus variety meat) exports reached 169,547 metric tons (373.8 million pounds)—essentially even with the volume for November during the recordshattering pace of 2008. This marked the first time monthly pork exports have reached or exceeded 2008 levels since March of 2009.

November’s total beef exports reached 76,693 metric tons (169 million pounds), with muscle cuts enjoying a 23 percent hike over yearago levels while variety meat slipped 27 percent.

While the export increase is a positive sign that economic indicators around the globe are pointing up, total beef and pork exports remain behind 2008 levels. For the first 11 months of 2009, the U.S. had exported 819,778 metric tons (1.8 billion pounds) of beef valued at more than $2.8 billion and 1.7 million metric tons (3.7 billion pounds) of pork valued at nearly $4 billion.

Beef is down 10 percent in volume and 16 percent in value compared to 2008 while pork is down 10 percent in volume and 13 percent in value.

Lamb and lamb variety meat exports maintained a fast pace with a 41 percent jump in volume over November of 2008 accompanied by a 14.7 percent boost in value. For the first 11 months of the year, total lamb exports are up 50 percent in volume and 13 percent in value. Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean rank No. 1, 2 and 3 in U.S. lamb export volume while the Caribbean holds the top spot for lamb export value.

“We are devoting significant resources to pork marketing this quarter with the support of $1.35 million in additional funding from the soybean industry at the end of 2009,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “The response from the soybean industry to support pork exports is very gratify ing,”

said Seng, referring to the “2009 Pork Stimulus Package” funded by the Minnesota Soybean Promotion Council, United Soybean Board, Nebraska Soybean Board, and South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.

By combining the funding with matching funds from the Market Access Program, the Foreign Market Development program, third-party contributions and other non-checkoff funds, USMEF has been able to leverage the contributions into a pool of more than $4 million for a concerted pork marketing push in Japan, Mexico and South Korea.

Mexico remains the volume leader for total U.S. pork exports, purchasing 451,483 metric tons (995.3 million pounds) valued at more than $672 million through the first 11 months of 2009—a 30 percent hike in volume and 9 percent in value over last year.

Japan remains the value leader for U.S. pork, importing 388,596 metric tons (746.5 million pounds) valued at more than $1.4 billion—a 7 percent drop in volume and 1 percent drop in value compared to 2009.

The biggest contributors to the decline in U.S. pork exports in 2009 are China and Russia, both of which imposed barriers to U.S. pork related to the H1N1 virus while attempting to rebuild domestic swine herds. Pork exports to the greater Hong Kong/China region are down 39 percent in volume and 42 percent in value thus far this year while exports to Russia are down 38 percent in volume and 41 percent in value. Together, they account for 80 percent of the year’s drop-off in the value of U.S. pork exports and 116 percent of the volume decline.

The most significant gains in 2009 pork exports have been reported in Mexico, the Philippines (38 percent increase in volume and 32 percent in value), Taiwan (38 percent in volume and 28 percent in value) and the Caribbean (21 percent in volume and 13 percent in value).

The top markets for U.S. beef (muscle cuts plus variety meat) through the first 11 months of 2009 based on volume continue to be Mexico, followed by Canada, the Middle East, Japan and the

ASEAN (primarily Vietnam). When measured in value, Mexico remains the leader, followed by Canada, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN.

Negative publicity surrounding beef trade with Taiwan may have impacted that market’s performance as beef exports declined in November when compared to the previous month. However, November beef exports to Taiwan still exceeded year-ago levels by about 3 percent in volume and more than 16 percent in value.

Beef exports to Mexico continue to slump as that country remains plagued by the lingering economic downturn. Total U.S. beef exports year-to-date are down 27 percent in volume and 35 percent in value. The downturn in this one key market alone accounts for 98.2 percent of the decline in beef export volume compared to 2008 and 82.7 percent of the decline in the value of exports versus last year.

“Our neighbor to the south is a critical partner for the U.S. beef industry,” said Seng. “While the economic challenges there are considerable, our team in Mexico is working diligently in partnership with retailers and foodservice to rejuvenate their marketing programs and raise the visibility of U.S. beef.”

Exports to Canada also have declined this year— down 27 percent in volume and 12 percent in value.

The most significant gains in U.S. beef exports have come from Japan (up 23 percent each in volume and value), the ASEAN (up 21 percent in volume and 20 percent in value) and the greater China region (up 139 percent in volume and 97 percent in value).

“Despite the limitation on beef exports to Japan from cattle under 21 months of age, we continue to regain market share there,” said Seng. “Our team in Japan is working very hard to maintain that momentum in 2010 with partnerships like the one that just started with Gust Restaurant chain where our goal is selling 1.5 million chuck eye roll steaks in a three-month promotion. That kind of collaboration with our retail and foodservice partners is essential to sustaining our export growth.” — WLJ