Challenges to February meat exports: Trade barriers, slow demand in selected markets

Apr 12, 2013
by WLJ

February continued the trend set at the end of 2012 for U.S. beef and pork exports with higher values on lower volumes for beef and a continued slight decline for pork, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Beef exports managed a 5 percent increase in value ($430 million) over February 2012 despite a slight decline in volume (86,367 metric tons, mt). February pork exports slipped 5 percent in volume (178,510 mt) and 6 percent in value ($494.6 million) compared to a year ago.

“The good news is that the long-awaited change in beef access to Japan came through in February,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng.

“Conversely, trade barriers and other obstacles seem to be emerging at a rather alarming rate in 2013. Sluggish economic conditions in certain markets also create a challenge, but this is why we have made such a strong effort to diversify our destinations for red meat exports over the years. As some of our key markets struggle, growth in other regions has helped provide balance.”

Canada, Hong Kong lead beef export value growth

Through the first two months of the year, beef exports totaled 172,975 mt valued at $873.8 million—2 percent lower in volume but 7 percent higher in value than last year’s pace. Beef export value in February averaged $239 per head of fed slaughter—up nearly $31 from a year ago. This drove the January-February export value to $220.39 per head, compared to $202.89 in 2012. The percentage of U.S. beef production exported in February was 10 percent for muscle cuts and 13.4 percent for combined muscle cuts and variety meat. This compares to 9 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively, from a year ago.

Beef exports to Canada are off to an outstanding start in 2013, totaling 31,464 mt (up 31 percent) valued at $200.2 million (up 46 percent) through February.

Other markets performing well above year-ago levels include:

Hong Kong, 15,821 mt (up 144 percent) valued at $85.5 million (up 126 percent).

Taiwan, 5,708 mt (up 16 percent) valued at $42.6 million (up 39 percent).

Philippines, 2,463 mt (up 19 percent) valued at $11.3 million (up 45 percent).

Dominican Republic, 617 mt (up 41 percent) valued at $5.6 million (up 70 percent).

Because access for U.S. beef exports to Japan was expanded on Feb. 1 to include beef from cattle less than 30 months of age (up from 21 months), expectations for the month were very high. Exports to Japan did record small gains in February and moved 3 percent higher in volume (19,918 mt) and 12 percent higher in value ($137.9 million) for the year. Based on weekly export data the improvement in market access didn’t trigger an increase in export activity late February, so the impact will be more pronounced in March.

The ractopamine impasse with Russia has had a dramatic impact on this year’s export results. Coming off a record year in 2012, beef exports to Russia through February totaled only 1,693 mt (-82 percent) valued at $2.1 million (-94 percent). The downturn in beef exports to Russia alone more than accounted for the overall volume decline in February.

Exports to former No. 1 market Mexico were also sharply lower at 29,933 mt (-21 percent) valued at $130.6 million (-23 percent).

Lower results in Mexico, Japan slow pork exports

Pork exports through February totaled 365,191 mt valued at just under $1.02 billion—down 8 percent in volume and 7 percent in value from a year ago. Pork export value in February averaged $57.56 per head, down slightly from last year’s $58.17. (January-February export value averaged $54.89, down 6 percent from a year ago.) Pork exports in February equated to 22 percent of muscle cut production and 27.9 percent when adding variety meats. This compares to 24 percent and 27.7 percent, respectively, in February 2012.

Pork exports to leading volume market Mexico slowed from the record pace established in 2012, declining 13 percent in volume (98,237 mt) and 12 percent in value ($183.5 million) through February. Value leader Japan also saw lower results, falling 11 percent in volume (71,248 mt) and 6 percent in value ($320.1 million). Exports to the China/Hong Kong region were relatively steady, falling 2 percent in volume (76,402 mt) but increasing 1 percent in value ($160.4 million). Exports to Canada were slightly ahead of last year’s pace in both volume (37,339 mt, up2 percent) and value ($130.6 million, up 1 percent).

Markets performing well above year-ago levels through February included:

Philippines, 7,851 mt (up 42 percent) valued at $18.3 million (up 32 percent).

Colombia, 3,598 mt (up 62 percent) valued at $9.2 million (up 51 percent).

Honduras, 3,559 mt (up 17 percent) valued at $8.7 million (up 24 percent).

Dominican Republic, 2,448 mt (up 28 percent) valued at $5.7 million (up 44 percent).

New Zealand, 1,780 mt (up 76 percent) valued at $5.1 million (up 57 percent).

The impact of Russia’s ractopamine restrictions was not as dramatic for pork, though exports through February were down 15 percent in volume (7,037 mt) and 16 percent in value ($21.1 million). Demand in South Korea continues to be hampered by sluggish consumer spending and a surge in domestic meat production, as exports through February fell 30 percent in volume (25,540 mt) and 32 percent in value ($70.7 million) compared to a year ago. — USMEF