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Year-end Export Totals Show Positive Trends For US Beef

19 February 2010

US - US red meat exports finished 2009 on a positive note with healthy gains in volume over December of a year ago, positioning both beef and pork exports to start 2010 on an upward trend, according to statistics compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Although 2009 year-end exports of both US pork and beef were down compared to the prior year, US exports equaled or bettered their main international competitors.

US pork exports closed the year with an eight per cent jump in volume and six per cent in value for the month of December compared to year-ago totals. For the calendar year, pork exports registered the second-highest total in history, but fell nine percent in volume and 11 per cent in value behind the record-setting totals of 2008.

However, US pork exports still outpaced the performance of global competitors, which (based on available data) slumped 15 per cent in value for the year, led by a 22 per cent drop for European Union pork producers.

The story was similar for US beef exports, which rose nine per cent in volume and four per cent in value for the month of December compared to 2008. For all of 2009, global beef export value (estimated from available trade data) fell 16 per cent, with Brazil’s export value tumbling 23 per cent and Australia’s falling 18.5 per cent.

US beef exports for all of 2009 slipped nine per cent in volume and 15 per cent in value compared to 2008.

“It’s been a challenging year for beef and pork producers around the globe, not just in the United States,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “However, it is encouraging to see consumer confidence returning and very positive signs of growth.”

Mr Seng also noted that USMEF is committing significant resources to key export markets to continue the momentum. On the beef side, the USMEF “Trust” imaging campaign in South Korea has generated very positive results in what was the No. 3 US beef export market prior to the discovery of BSE in 2003. The US soybean industry has also provided a $1.35 million cash infusion to promote US pork exports. USMEF is combining those funds with existing USDA Market Access Programme (MAP) funds and new matching contributions from retailers to create more than $4 million in promotional impact for pork marketing programs in Japan, Mexico and South Korea.

Beef exports gain momentum as global economy shows signs of improvement

For calendar year 2009, beef exports finished about nine per cent below 2008 in volume (897,376 metric tons or 1.98 billion pounds) and about 15 per cent lower in value ($3.08 billion). When examined more closely, however, US beef exports held up relatively well considering that the bleak global economy that prevailed throughout much of the year had a particularly strong impact on beef demand and may have benefited pork.

Much of the decline in beef exports is attributable to lower demand in Mexico, due to that country’s deep recession and devaluation of the peso. Total beef/beef variety meat exports to Mexico declined 27 per cent in volume (to 291,700 metric tons or 643.1 million pounds) and 35 per cent in value (to $909 million). In fact, exports of HS chapter 0504 products (primarily tripe) to Mexico plunged 52 per cent in volume and 64 per cent in value. If these products are excluded from global totals, US beef/beef variety meat exports declined by just 1.5 per cent in volume and eight per cent in value compared to 2008.

US beef also fared better than many of its global competitors in 2009. Brazilian beef exports declined 23 per cent to $3.89 billion; Australia’s export value dropped 18.5 per cent to $3.76 billion and New Zealand fell 19 per cent to $1.233 billion. Canada’s exports declined at a slightly lower rate, but still fell 13 per cent to $1.116 billion. Argentina was the only major exporter to record an increase in 2009 (to $1.8 billion). But while Argentina’s export volume increased 56 per cent, it achieved only a six per cent increase in value. This is a strong indication that the increase in exports was largely driven by herd liquidation.

The most positive trend for US beef exports in 2009 was the explosive growth achieved in Asian markets:

December exports to Japan were well above the previous year’s level, capping off a year in which exports surged by 23 per cent in both volume and value (to 91,467 metric tons or 201.6 million pounds valued at $470 million).

December exports to Taiwan increased 29 per cent from 2008 and jumped 53 per cent from November 2009 – suggesting a quick recovery from the widely publicised controversy over the new trade protocol adopted in October. For the year, export volume was steady at 27,256 metric tons (60.1 million pounds) but export value increased 11 per cent to an all-time record of $141.2 million.

December exports to Vietnam were up 59 per cent in volume and 47 per cent in value over 2008. For the year, record-large exports to Vietnam increased by 31 per cent in volume (to 53,675 metric tons or 118.33 million pounds) and 29 per cent in value (to $168 million).

December exports to Hong Kong were up 124 per cent in volume and 159 percent in value over year-ago levels. For the year, exports to Hong Kong increased by 145 per cent in volume (to 24,060 metric tons or 53 million pounds) and by 104 per cent in value (to $84.56 million).

Year-end exports to South Korea were down compared to 2008, but gained considerable strength as the year came to a close. December exports to Korea were $29.48 million – nearly double the value from December 2008. According to weekly export data, export volume to Korea exceeded 1,000 metric tons per week since late September and averaged about 1,240 metric tons per week since the beginning of 2010.

For the year, 10 per cent of US beef and beef variety meat production was exported compared to 11.6 percent in 2008. The value of exports per head of steer and heifer slaughter was $118.27 compared to $133.84 in 2008.

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