Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation
While the sluggish global economy and depressed currencies of many major trading partners have kept beef exports down, October showed promising signs of a rebound, according to the latest statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Exports totaled 82,627 metric tons (182.2 million pounds) valued at $274.7 million, the largest monthly volume and third-highest monthly value (slightly behind May and June) of the year.
While still below year-ago levels, October's beef exports show a 12% increase in volume and 5% in value over the prior month, and exceed the 2009 monthly average by 11% in volume and 7.5% in value. January-October exports of 743,085 metric tons (1.64 billion pounds) valued at $2.56 billion still lag last year's pace by 12% and 18%, respectively.
Brazil, the world's largest beef exporter, has seen its exports slip even more than the U.S. - 15% in volume (no value figures are available). The only major exporter to see significant growth this year is Argentina, and that is due to the government's relaxation of 2008 export restrictions and a sharp increase in cattle slaughter that led to dramatically lower prices.
"This has been a tough year globally for the beef industry due to the rough economic conditions,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "This year USMEF realigned its resources to put a lot of our emphasis on markets and niches within markets that showed potential for near-term growth, such as the convenience store niche in Japan, and that has helped limit the overall decline even though the strong U.S. dollar made our products relatively more expensive.”
Record U.S. beef exports to the Middle East represent one of the most positive drivers in October, totaling 10,608 metric tons (23.4 million pounds) valued at $14.9 million. This region continues to show a growing appetite for U.S. beef muscle cuts as exports through the first 10 months of the year more than doubled in volume compared to 2008. Egypt, which has long been a stellar market for beef variety meat, has imported nearly 30 times its 2008 volume of U.S. beef muscle cuts.
Japan also continues to outpace 2008 totals by a significant margin. October exports were up 24% in volume and 26% in value over October 2008. January-October exports to Japan totaled 78,823 metric tons (173.8 million pounds), valued at $404.9 million – an increase of 22% in both volume and value.
"We are extremely pleased with the growth achieved in Japan, as demand for U.S. beef continues to climb even in difficult economic times,” said Seng. "It's important to remember that the U.S. industry is limited to exporting beef from cattle 20 months of age or younger, and this age restriction becomes particularly confining in the final months of the year as cattle supply dwindles. There is still tremendous room for growth in Japan if we can gain broader access to the market.”
South Korea, where USMEF has conducted extensive marketing efforts in recent months at both retail and food service, saw imports of U.S. beef reach their highest monthly volume since February - 5,695 metric tons (12.6 million pounds) valued at $20.9 million. While down from October of last year, these results are more than double the September volume and are 90 percent above the September value.
This month, USMEF launched a major U.S. beef imaging campaign in Korea which seeks to further capitalize on growing consumer demand and a strengthening Korean currency.
Other October highlights for U.S. beef included record exports to Greater China plus Vietnam, as well as the highest 2009 monthly volume of exports to both Russia and Taiwan. Demand in Taiwan appears to be holding up extremely well despite continued negative media coverage surrounding expanded market access for U.S. beef.
Even though beef exports to Mexico, the No. 1 destination for U.S. beef, remain down, there are signs of optimism here as well. October muscle cut exports there were just 4% below 2008 levels, although variety meat exports were down 39% in volume and 55% in value. For the year, total beef exports to Mexico trail last year's pace by 27% in volume and 36% in value.
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