The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) says based on USDA data, trade barriers and other obstacles emerged in February to slow U.S. beef and pork exports in terms of volume. While beef exports managed a 5% increase in value ($430 million) over February 2012, volume of 86,367 MT reflected a slight drop from year-ago. February pork exports of 178,510 MT were down 5% from year-ago and the value of those exports ($494.6 million) was 6% below year-ago.
"The good news is that the long-awaited change in beef access to Japan came through in February," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "Conversely, trade barriers and other obstacles seem to be emerging at a rather alarming rate in 2013. Sluggish economic conditions in certain markets also create a challenge, but this is why we have made such a strong effort to diversify our destinations for red meat exports over the years. As some of our key markets struggle, growth in other regions has helped provide balance."
Exports to Japan recorded a small gain in February by improving 3% in volume and 12% value for the year. "Based on weekly export data the improvement in market access didn’t trigger an increase in export activity late February, so the impact will be more pronounced in March," says USMEF. Meanwhile, The ractopamine impasse with Russia has had a dramatic impact on this year’s export results. Coming off a record year in 2012, beef exports to Russia through February are down 82% in terms of volume.
Through the first two months of the year, total beef export tonnage of 172,975 MT is 2% lower than last year's pace, although the value of those exports of $873.8 million is up 7% from year earlier. USMEF says the percentage of U.S. beef production exported in February was 10% for muscle cuts and 13.4% for combined muscle cuts and variety meat. This compares to 9% and 12.6%, respectively, from a year ago.
Pork exports the first two months of 2013 are down 8% in terms of volume and 7% lower in value than in 2012. Pork exports in February equated to 22% of muscle cut production and 27.9% when adding variety meats. This compares to 24% and 27.7%, respectively, in February 2012. Pork exports to leading-volume market Mexico slowed from the record pace established in 2012, declining 13% in volume the first two months of 2013. USMEF says value-leader Japan also saw lower results, falling 11% in volume compared to year-ago. "The impact of Russia’s ractopamine restrictions was not as dramatic for pork, though exports through February were down 15% in volume (7,037 MT) and 16% in value ($21.1 million). Demand in South Korea continues to be hampered by sluggish consumer spending and a surge in domestic meat production, as exports through February fell 30% in volume (25,540 M%) and 32% in value ($70.7 million) compared to a year ago," says USMEF.