Slow Demand in Mexico, Canada Behind Sluggish February US Beef Exports

US - February exports of US beef were roughly steady with last year’s volumes but export value moved lower as prices continued to decline from the 2014 highs, according to statistics released by USDA and analysed by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), contractor to the beef checkoff.
calendar icon 12 April 2016
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The price reductions reflect more abundant red meat supplies and a fiercely competitive international marketplace, USMEF said.

February beef exports totalled 183.4 million pounds, up slightly from last year, while value dropped 18 per cent to $437 million. January-February exports were up 2 per cent in volume (364.9 million pounds) from a year ago but fell 16 per cent in value ($875.1 million).

USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng said the February results fell short of expectations.

“Given the headwinds US exports faced early last year, including the severe congestion in the West Coast ports, we expected to see year-to-year increases in most markets, but the actual picture was mixed,” Mr Seng explained.

“Beef exports did rebound in most Asian markets compared to February 2015, but these gains were largely offset by declines in our neighbouring markets.”

Overseas gains for beef exports offset by slow demand in Mexico, Canada

Through February, beef export volume moved higher than a year ago in most Asian markets and Central America and was relatively steady in the Middle East and the Caribbean.

Demand slowed substantially, however, in Mexico and Canada, last year’s number 1 and number 4 volume destinations for US beef.

“US beef is well-positioned to regain market share in Asia this year,” Mr Seng explained.

“Increased slaughter numbers are generating larger supplies of the cuts needed to serve our Asian customers, and this will bolster our marketing efforts in both the foodservice and retail sectors.

"But we need to find even more innovative ways to maintain beef demand in Mexico, where the weak peso has effectively offset any softening of US beef prices.”

January-February market highlights for US beef include:

  • Japan reclaimed its position as US beef’s leading volume destination (72.5 million pounds, +11 per cent year-over-year). Japan was also the top value market, though export value was down 12 per cent to $180 million. US exports to Japan are expected to recover market share this year, with smaller available supplies (and higher prices) from Australia, as well as recent strengthening of the yen, helping offset some of Australia’s tariff advantage.
  • Exports to Korea increased 28 per cent from a year ago in volume (50.8 million pounds) but fell 2 per cent in value to $135.5 million. Smaller domestic production and high prices have helped stimulate demand for larger imports. High-quality US beef is well-positioned to help meet this need, while also helping to fuel consumption growth in Korea.
  • Exports to Hong Kong rebounded to 45.3 million pounds (+18 per cent) but value fell 14 per cent to $118.6 million.
  • Taiwan, where the US is the dominant supplier of chilled beef, achieved year-over-year growth in both volume (11.1 million pounds, +25 per cent) and value ($44.2 million, +6 per cent).
  • Exports to Central America increased by 50 per cent (4.9 million pounds) with value up 37 per cent ($12.6 million), driven by strong growth to El Salvador, Panama and Honduras.
  • Exports to Mexico fell 18 per cent in volume (70.2 million pounds) and 28 per cent in value ($143.4 million), while exports to Canada were down 11 per cent (38.7 million pounds) and 25 per cent ($104.7 million), respectively.

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