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Up, Up and Away: The US Beef Export Surge

12 June 2008

US - According to recent figures U.S. beef exports are continuing to enjoy a rapid surge. Exports of beef and beef variety meat jumped 31 percent in volume and nearly 39 percent in value in April 2008 over April 2007.

This increase mirrors gains in the first four months of 2008, which registered a 29.5 percent jump in volume (463.2 million pounds a year ago to 600.1 million pounds in 2008) and 39.9 percent in value ($944,538 in the first four months of 2008 versus $675,140 a year ago).

Beef exports (not including variety meat) for the first four months of 2008 increased 36 percent to 162,446 metric tons (358.1 million pounds), a 39 percent increase in value to $704.25 million. Beef variety meat exports were up 22 percent to 109,775 metric tons.

Daley noted that beef and beef variety meats accounted for 9 percent of U.S. production volume in the first four months of 2008, compared to 13 percent for the first four months of 2003 (pre-BSE).

“Considering that South Korea and China are closed to U.S. beef and the Japanese market is severely limited, U.S. beef exports are rebounding at a healthy rate,” Daley said.

Beef Highlights (year-to-date)

  • Mexico holds the No. 1 position, with beef exports up 14 percent (67,263 metric tons or 148.2 million pounds), variety meat exports up 29 percent (62,802 metric tons or 138.4 million pounds) for a combined increase of 21 percent to 130,065 metric tons (286.7 million pounds) for January-April valued at $439 million.

  • Exports (not including variety meat) to Canada are up 53 percent to 40,906 metric tons (90.1 million pounds), a 58 percent in value to $203.7 million. “They should continue to increase through June, following last year’s trend and remain over 12,000 metric tons (26.4 million pounds) per month for the remainder of the year,” said Daley.

  • Japan’s beef imports (including variety meat) from the United States are up 48 percent to 15,916 metric tons or 35 million pounds (up 62 percent in value to $85 million), with April exports totaling 5,655 metric tons (12.4 million pounds). Monthly exports should remain over 5,000 metric tons (11 million pounds) through August due to increased availability of beef from cattle less than 21 months of age.

  • The ASEAN region, led by Vietnam, took 395 percent more beef with exports totaling 13,734 metric tons (30.2 million pounds). Exports to Taiwan increased 29 percent to 8,378 metric tons (18.4 million pounds).

  • Department of Commerce data shows exports to the EU are up 195 percent to 4,669 metric tons (10.2 million pounds). As previously noted, this data overstates actual exports to the EU. From EU high-quality-beef quota usage, USMEF estimates that beef exports will reach 4,000 metric tons (8.8 million pounds) for the current July-June GATT year.

  • Beef exports to the Caribbean (including variety meat) increased 5.6 percent to 3,585 metric tons or 7.9 million pounds (excluding the DR)

  • Exports to the Middle East increased 5 percent to 2,789 metric tons (6.1 million pounds) while variety meat exports were down 9 percent to 26,271 metric tons (57.9 million pounds). The UAE is the largest beef market, while Egypt is the largest variety meat market in the region. Although the volume of livers to Egypt is down 10 percent, the value of exports is up 11 percent, indicating competition for livers as exports to Russia slowly recover (totaling 3,549 metric tons or 7.8 million pounds for January-April). The other growth markets for variety meats are Peru (mainly livers, up 150 percent to 1,587 metric tons or 3.4 million pounds) and the Philippines, which is up from 112 metric tons (246,915 pounds) last year to 1,376 metric tons (3 million pounds) for January-April 2008.

  • Exports to Russia are likely underreported by the Department of Commerce. PIERS data shows 3,372 metric tons (7.4 million pounds) of frozen beef to Russia during January-April. This volume exceeds total annual beef exports to Russia during 2003. Like pork, U.S. beef (especially round cuts) is competitively priced with Brazilian, Australian and Uruguayan beef in the Russian market.

  • Beef exports (excluding variety meat) were lower to Hong Kong (down 4 percent to 3,080 metric tons or 6.7 million pounds) and Central/South America (down 17 percent to 883 metric tons or 1.9 million pounds) for January-April.

Live Animal Imports

The importation of Canadian cattle into the United States was up 31.5 percent through May (with a 68 percent increase in feeder cattle imports more than offsetting an 11 percent drop in slaughter steer and heifer imports), according to Daley. Imports of live Canadian hogs were up 14 percent (with feeder imports up 19 percent, slaughter up 4.5 percent) through May.

Live animals imported prior to mid-July can be declared as U.S. origin under the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements, which will come into effect at the end of this year. U. S. imports of Mexican feeder cattle are down 31 percent compared to January-May last year.

Grain Outlook

USDA’s WASDE (World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates) report released today reflects tight supplies of corn, with projected 2008/09 production down 10 percent compared to the 2007/08 marketing year, feed use down 15 percent, and ending stocks at 673 million bushels, the lowest level since 1995/96.

At the same time, U.S. beef production is expected to be up 1.5 percent compared to last year (with continued strong cow slaughter) and exports up just 15 percent over last year. Per capita beef supplies are estimated at 64.5 pounds per capita during 2008 and 62.7 pounds per capita in 2009 (down from 65.2 pounds per capita in 2007).

The pork exports estimate for 2008 was reduced slightly, but exports are still expected to be 36 percent higher than last year. Pork production estimates for 2008 and 2009 also were reduced slightly, reflecting lower live imports from Canada and lower U.S. production in response to high grain prices. Per capita pork supplies are expected to decline by about 1 pound per capita, from an estimated 50.7 pounds in 2008 to 49.6 pounds per capita in 2009.

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