January Beef Exports Show Mixed Results

March 11, 2010 06:00 PM

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation

The pace of U.S. beef exports cooled somewhat in January, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Muscle cut exports held up fairly well in January, but total exports were held down by a very sluggish market for variety meat.

Beef plus beef variety meat exports were 9% higher in volume and 6% higher in value than in January 2009. Beef muscle cuts fared even better, rising 16% in volume and 15% in value. However, these totals represented a decline from December 2009 and were also lower than the 2009 monthly average. Beef variety meat exports were down only 4% in volume but plummeted 26% in value compared to January 2009.

Beef exports up from year-ago slump, but pace slowed compared to fall 2009

January beef/beef variety meat exports totaled 72,596 metric tons (160 million pounds) valued at just under $248 million. This compares favorably to the 66,457 metric tons (146.5 million pounds) valued at $233 million exported in January 2009. However, volume was down 6% from December and 3% below the 2009 monthly average. Value was down 5% from December and 3% below the monthly 2009 average. Export value per steer and heifer slaughtered totaled just under $119, with exports accounting for 10% of beef/beef variety meat production.

"The good news is beef exports are off to a better start to 2010 than they were last year, when the economic climate was just brutal,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "But in coming weeks, our focus is on reclaiming the momentum we had established late in the year with our holiday marketing campaigns and other beef promotions.”

Exports are on the rise to Canada, the second-largest market (after Mexico) for U.S. beef. January exports were 11,064 metric tons (24.4 million pounds) valued at $47.6 million. This was a 21% increase in volume and 29% increase in value over January 2009.

Key Asian markets also continued to perform extremely well compared to a year ago, including:

  • Japan – 5,602 metric tons (12.4 million pounds) valued at $27.9 million, an increase of 38% in volume and 28% in value.
  • Taiwan – 3,017 metric tons (6.7 million pounds) valued at $17.5 million, an increase of 166% in volume and more than triple (+204%) the January 2009 value.
  • Hong Kong – 2,037 metric tons (4.5 million pounds) valued at $8.4 million, nearly a five-fold increase in both volume (+379%) and value (+378%).
  • South Korea – 7,327 metric tons (16.2 million pounds) valued at $27.2 million. This represented a 3% increase in volume and a slight decline in value from

January 2009. However, it was 67% higher in volume and 56% higher in value than the 2009 monthly average, revealing a remarkable recovery from the mid-2009 slump in exports to Korea.

"The turnaround in our beef exports to Korea continues to solidify,” Seng said. "We are very pleased with the results of our recent imaging campaign, which definitely has captured the attention of our competitors in this critical market.”

Beef exports to the Middle East continued their positive momentum in January, led by strong sales in Egypt and a growing presence in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. Exports to the European Union are also growing, but January EU import data – considered a more reliable measure for this unique market - are not yet available.

The trend for beef exports to Mexico is positive, with January volume up 28% and value up 8% versus the previous month.  While Mexico is still the largest destination for U.S. beef, exports were down 24% in volume and 32% in value compared to January 2009. Mexico's economy is showing signs of improvement and the peso has reclaimed some of the value it shed last year, but its purchasing power is still well below 2008 levels, when U.S. beef exports to Mexico set an all-time record.

The only other major market showing a decline from last year was Vietnam, where beef/beef variety meat exports fell 22% in volume and 29% in value from January 2009. However, weekly USDA/FAS export data for February show higher volumes destined for Vietnam.

Complete January 2010 export statistics are online.

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