Beef Exports Gain Momentum

February 17, 2010 06:00 PM

For calendar year 2009, beef exports finished about 9% below 2008 in volume (897,376 metric tons or 1.98 billion pounds) and about 15% lower in value ($3.08 billion). When examined more closely, however, U.S. beef exports held up relatively well considering that the bleak global economy that prevailed throughout much of the year had a particularly strong impact on beef demand and may have benefited pork.

Much of the decline in beef exports is attributable to lower demand in Mexico, due to that country's deep recession and devaluation of the peso. Total beef/beef variety meat exports to Mexico declined 27% in volume (to 291,700 metric tons or 643.1 million pounds) and 35% in value (to $909 million). In fact, exports of HS chapter 0504 products (primarily tripe) to Mexico plunged 52% in volume and 64% in value. If these products are excluded from global totals, U.S. beef/beef variety meat exports declined by just 1.5% in volume and 8% in value compared to 2008.

U.S. beef also fared better than many of its global competitors in 2009. Brazilian beef exports declined 23% to $3.89 billion; Australia's export value dropped 18.5% to $3.76 billion and New Zealand fell 19% to $1.233 billion. Canada's exports declined at a slightly lower rate, but still fell 13% to $1.116 billion. Argentina was the only major exporter to record an increase in 2009 (to $1.8 billion). But while Argentina's export volume increased 56%, it achieved only a 6% increase in value. This is a strong indication that the increase in exports was largely driven by herd liquidation.

The most positive trend for U.S. beef exports in 2009 was the explosive growth achieved in Asian markets:

December exports to Japan were well above the previous year's level, capping off a year in which exports surged by 23% in both volume and value (to 91,467 metric tons or 201.6 million pounds valued at $470 million).

December exports to Taiwan increased 29% from 2008 and jumped 53% from November 2009 – suggesting a quick recovery from the widely publicized controversy over the new trade protocol adopted in October. For the year, export volume was steady at 27,256 metric tons (60.1 million pounds) but export value increased 11% to an all-time record of $141.2 million.

December exports to Vietnam were up 59% in volume and 47% in value over 2008. For the year, record-large exports to Vietnam increased by 31% in volume (to 53,675 metric tons or 118.33 million pounds) and 29% in value (to $168 million).

December exports to Hong Kong were up 124% in volume and 159% in value over year-ago levels. For the year, exports to Hong Kong increased by 145% in volume (to 24,060 metric tons or 53 million pounds) and by 104% in value (to $84.56 million).

Year-end exports to South Korea were down compared to 2008, but gained considerable strength as the year came to a close. December exports to Korea were $29.48 million – nearly double the value from December 2008. According to weekly export data, export volume to Korea exceeded 1,000 metric tons per week since late September and averaged about 1,240 metric tons per week since the beginning of 2010.

For the year, 10% of U.S. beef and beef variety meat production was exported compared to 11.6% in 2008. The value of exports per head of steer and heifer slaughter was $118.27 compared to $133.84 in 2008.

Follow this link for more details from USMEF on pork and lamb exports.

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation

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