Export numbers on track for National Export Initiative 2014 goal

Apr 20, 2012

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) recently hosted a White House Business Council Agriculture Roundtable discussion at its Denver, CO, headquarters with Ambassador Isi Siddiqui (pronounced IZZY SU-DEE-KEY), the chief agriculture trade negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Siddiqui met with leaders from state and national agricultural organizations to discuss President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) and other critical ag trade issues. Following the meetings, Siddiqui met with Western Livestock Journal before touring the Spruce Mountain Ranch cattle operation near Larkspur, CO.

March 11 marked the second anniversary of Obama’s Executive Order 13534 which created NEI. The president’s goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014 is on track, Siddiqui told WLJ, with exports increasing almost 16 percent last year to $2.1 trillion.

U.S. agricultural exports, he says, have grown by about 40 percent over the past two years, compared with about 35 percent for non-ag exports, and 2012 appears to be continuing the trend. Net farm income today is at near record levels. Farm exports in fiscal year 2011 reached a record high of $137.4 billion—exceeding past highs by $22.5 billion—and supported 1.15 million U.S. jobs, according to USDA reports. The agricultural trade surplus is at $42.7 billion.

American agriculture supports one in 12 jobs in the U.S. and provides American consumers with 83 percent of their food.

USMEF reported last week that February beef export volume, at 87,131 metric tons (mt), was 3 percent lower than a year ago but export value remained exceptionally strong, increasing 10 percent to $409 million. Through the first two months of the year, beef exports totaled 176,585 mt (-2 percent) valued at $815 million ( 12 percent). “Export results were quite solid, especially considering the impact of market access issues in some destinations, particularly Taiwan and Southeast Asia,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “We continue to expand the presence of U.S. pork in all key destinations— especially in North Asia and in Western Hemisphere markets. In the beef complex, export volume may be struggling somewhat due to price, but we are having great success directing beef cuts to the markets that value them most. This is keeping beef export value very strong— well ahead of the record pace established last year.”

Russia, Middle East, and Latin America are leading the beef-export value surge.

February beef exports equated to 12 percent of production when including both muscle cuts and variety meat and 9 percent for muscle cuts only. This compares to 12.9 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in February 2011. Export value equated to $208.05 per head of fed slaughter, up 14 percent from last year’s $182.12.

Beef exports to Russia are expected to benefit from a higher muscle cut tariff rate quota (TRQ) in 2012 as the TRQ was increased from 41,700 mt in 2011 to 60,000 mt this year. January-February exports to Russia were up 58 percent in volume (9,297 mt) and tripled in value to $38.2 million. The pace was even hotter when including only muscle cuts, which increased 131 percent in volume (5,746 mt) and 238 percent in value ($29.9 million).

Egypt led strong results for U.S. beef in the Middle East with exports to the region increasing 13 percent in volume (23,507 mt) and 19 percent in value ($53.3 million).

Volumes were lower for the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, but both destinations still achieved substantial increases in value.

Led by strong results in Chile, Peru and Guatemala, exports to the Central and South America region increased 63 percent in volume (5,651 mt) and 91 percent in value ($21.8 million). “Export growth in these markets is reflective of a very successful effort to expand the global footprint of U.S. beef,” Seng said. “At one time, these markets were only a small factor in our global results, and buyers were exclusively interested in variety meat. But the U.S. industry has made great strides in marketing beef muscle cuts, many of which are underutilized domestically.”

Mexico was the leading destination in terms of both volume (38,070 mt) and value ($170.6 million). This represents a decrease in volume of 6 percent, but a 13 percent increase in value, according to USMEF.

Exports to Canada, which was the only $1 billion market for U.S. beef in 2011, slipped 3 percent in volume (24,072 mt) but increased 11 percent in value ($136.9 million).

Exports to Japan, which are still limited to beef from cattle 20 months of age or younger, were down 5 percent in volume (19,344 mt) but increased 16 percent in value ($123.6 million).

Having set the fast pace in early 2011, beef exports through February to Korea were down 19 percent in volume (22,850 mt) and 15 percent in value ($102 million). Conversely, exports to Taiwan were very slow in the early months of 2011 because of an unsteady regulatory environment. Taiwan’s results for this year show an increase of 26 percent in volume (4,938 mt) and 30 percent in value ($30.7 million), but market conditions remain very fragile and March results will likely be lower. Exports to Indonesia have been dramatically reduced due to smaller import quotas, which contributed to a decline in exports to the ASEAN region of 15 percent in volume (9,938 mt) and 5 percent in value ($39.2 million).

Siddiqui said the Obama administration has aggressively worked to expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade, helping to push agricultural exports to record levels in 2011 and plans are to continue the pace. “We are on track and heading in the right direction,” Siddiqui said. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor