March beef export results mixed

May 10, 2013
by WLJ

March exports of U.S. beef were down in volume from a year ago but edged slightly higher in value, while pork exports slumped on lower results in several mainstay markets. According to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), March beef export volume of 83,612 metric tons (mt) was down 7 percent from a year ago but export value ($440.7 million) was slightly higher. Beef exports finished the first quarter 4 percent lower in volume (256,587 mt) but 5 percent ahead of last year’s record pace in value ($1.3 billion).

March beef exports equated to 9 percent of U.S. muscle cut production and 12 percent when adding variety meat—ratios consistent with a year ago. Export value equated to $222.20 per head of fed slaughter, up from 9 percent in March 2012. First quarter export value was $221, also an increase of 9 percent.

March pork exports declined 18 percent from a year ago in both volume (163,004 mt) and value ($469.5 million), hampered by a beta agonist-related market closure in Russia, larger domestic supplies in China and South Korea and weakened demand in top markets Japan and Mexico. For the first quarter, pork exports fell 12 percent below last year’s record pace in volume (528,195 mt) and 11 percent in value ($1.49 billion).

“We are definitely facing a challenging environment in several of our leading markets,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng.

“Some of these trends are anticipated, such as the lower demand for exports where domestic production is up and inventories are plentiful. But the trade impasse with Russia is very frustrating because we have lost access to a market where demand for our product is extremely strong. In other destinations we have seen the overall demand for high-quality proteins become sluggish, and USMEF is very focused on reversing this trend.”

Expanded access boosts beef exports to Japan, Hong Kong

Beef exports to Japan received an excellent bounce from aggressive promotional campaigns designed to capitalize on the recently expanded market access. March volume (18,565 mt) was nearly 80 percent higher than a year ago and value was up 62 percent to $114.2 million. This pushed first-quarter exports to Japan 30 percent higher in both volume (38,483 mt) and value ($252.1 million).

Japan ranks second in beef export value to Canada, where U.S. exports also posted an outstanding first quarter. Export volume to Canada increased 20 percent to 44,305 mt while value was up 32 percent to $284.2 million. This made Canada the leading volume and value destination for U.S. beef.

Beef exports to Hong Kong more than doubled in volume in the first quarter to 22,217 mt, while value increased 93 percent to 123.4 million. Market access was also expanded in Hong Kong in late February, when the market began accepting bone-in cuts from U.S. cattle less than 30 months of age and boneless cuts from cattle of all ages.

Another bright spot for the U.S. beef industry has been the steady recovery of exports to Taiwan, which slumped in late 2011 and much of 2012 due to controversy over Taiwan’s beta agonist policy. With more workable regulations now in place, exports to Taiwan posted their best-ever first-quarter performance with volume increasing 56 percent to 8,669 mt and value up 88 percent to $66.1 million.

Beef exports to the Middle East also recorded the best first quarter ever in terms of volume, increasing 10 percent to 39,018 mt. Export value ($75.7 million) slipped 4 percent due in part to the continued lack of access to Saudi Arabia, which closed to U.S. beef following the April 2012 BSE case.

As mentioned previously, red meat trade with Russia has been effectively shut down since early February. First quarter beef exports were down 87 percent in volume (1,858 mt) and 96 percent in value ($2.3 million). Exports to former No. 1 market Mexico continue to struggle, with first-quarter results down 27 percent in volume (40,668 mt) and 29 percent in value ($177.1 million). Mexico now ranks second in export volume to Canada and third in value behind Canada and Japan. — WLJ