U.S. beef exports opened the new year on a positive note, but market conditions suggest that 2014 could be a challenging year, according to statistics released by the USDA and compiled by USMEF, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program.
Beef exports continued the strong performance set in 2013, rising 13 percent in volume and 16 percent in value year-on-year in January, bolstered by double-digit growth to Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong.
While price is just one of many factors that affect beef trade, higher beef prices will create challenges for American exports in the months ahead, particularly in markets where customers are more price sensitive, said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. In addition, he noted that with U.S. beef production expected to drop 5 percent this year, and already running below last year’s levels, it will be challenging to maintain export levels throughout the year.
Strong performances in the key markets of Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong, plus solid growth in Central/South America (Chile is the top destination in the region, but with triple-digit growth to Colombia) offset a drop in exports to Canada (down 26 percent in volume and 21 percent in value), partially driven by the weaker Canadian dollar, as well as declines in the value of exports to the Middle East and volume to South Korea. In addition, the reemerging Indonesian market was the eighth-largest single-country destination by volume in January, as exports continued the strong pace set back in October 2013 following improved market-access conditions.
January 2014 beef exports of 214.5 million pounds were up 13 percent from January 2013. Export value rose 16 percent year-on-year to $514.5 million. Exports accounted for 13 percent of total beef production (muscle cuts plus variety meat), and 10 percent of muscle cuts alone – increases of 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively. The export value per head of fed slaughter for the month was $219.73, up $14.79 from last year.
Top-performing beef export markets in January were:
- Mexico: 44.6 million pounds (up 23 percent) valued at $93.6 million (up 27 percent)
- Japan: 34.5 million pounds (up 53 percent) valued at $92.9 million (up 28 percent)
- Hong Kong: 28.2 million pounds (up 83 percent) valued at $80.9 million (up 118 percent)
- Central/South America: 6.3 million pounds (up 26 percent) valued at $12.4 million (up 32 percent)
- Chile: 2.15 million pounds (up 25 percent) valued at $4.7 million (up 26 percent)
- Colombia: 813,505 pounds (up 258 percent) valued at $1.3 million (up 243 percent)
- Indonesia: 3.8 million pounds (up 3,314 percent) valued at $4.6 million (up 879 percent)
Source: Beef Checkoff Program