Beef exports are setting a great pace to start the second quarter of 2014.
By: Darrell Mark, SDSU Economics Adjunct Professor, SDSU Extension
Last week, USDA’s Economic Research Service released its carcass weight equivalent meat and poultry trade data for the month of February. Beef and veal exports totaled 182.8 million pounds (carcass weight equivalent) during February 2014, which was 3% higher than a year ago and almost 15% higher than the previous five-year average for February. For the first two months of the year, beef and veal exports were up 4% compared to the same time period a year ago. Due to record high prices for beef, the value of U.S. beef continues to remain high. February beef and veal exports were worth $427.8 million, 15% higher than a year ago.
Beef exports to Japan lead the way in February – both in total quantity and percent increase over a year ago. Japanese purchases of U.S. beef were 40.3 million pounds in February, 46% higher than in February 2013. February Beef exports to Mexico, at 34.9 million pounds, were up 41% compared to last year. This made Mexico the second largest buyer of U.S. beef in February 2014, a trend which has persisted through this last winter. Canada, which remained the third largest purchaser of U.S. beef in February, imported 29% less beef during the month compared to last year. Continued strong exports to Hong Kong (up 15%) made this country the fourth largest destination for U.S. beef. Among the other largest-volume markets for U.S. beef, South Korea imported 5% less beef in February 2014 than a year ago. Exports were down 90% to Russia, 82% to Vietnam, and 18% to "other" countries. Russia continues its ractopamine ban on U.S. beef, which started about 15 months ago.
The U.S. exports a relatively small number of live cattle, with the vast majority going to Canada or Mexico. Live cattle exports in February were down 2% compared to a year ago, with exports to Canada dropping 23% and Mexico increasing by 53%. Cheaper feedstuff prices in the U.S., coupled with tight feeder cattle supplies and ample feedlot capacity, have slowed cattle exports to Canada. And, while the percentage increases in cattle exports to Mexico are large, the total number of head is relatively small, and reflects some moderation in drought conditions in that country and rebuilding of beef breeding herds and dairy cows numbers.
Beef and veal imports into the U.S. totaled 171 million pounds in February, which was 2% below a year ago. Beef imports from Brazil were 55% lower than a year ago, while Uruguay shipped 23% less beef to the U.S. Beef imports from Mexico and Australia were down 5% and 1%, respectively, for the month. Imports increased from New Zealand (+2%), Nicaragua (+2%), Argentina (+49%), and "other" countries (+34%). Has as been the case for the last two years, imports from Argentina have been very small.
Live cattle imports from Canada and Mexico were up 13% and down 11%, respectively, in February. Thus, total cattle imports into the U.S. during February were unchanged from a year ago. Cattle imports from Canada increased due to more Canadian calves being placed on feed in U.S. feedlots and additional cows being shipped to the U.S. for slaughter.