USDA, in its latest Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook, says it expects beef imports in 2012 to increase to 2.09 million lbs -- 1.9% above 2011. Total beef imports in 2011 of 2.052 million lbs. were 10.6% lower than in 2010, making the U.S. a net beef exporter by 32 million pounds.
"For much of 2011, the U.S. beef imports can be summarized as constrained by Australia and New Zealand’s efforts to rebuild their cattle herds and, subsequently, lower quantities of beef available for export from Oceania; a relatively weak U.S. dollar, making prices of foreign imported products higher; and continuing strong demand for beef in global markets," says USDA.
USDA attributes the expected increase in beef imports in 2012 to increases in beef production in Australia and New Zealand, although says growth will be limited. "Weather and forage conditions in Australia will be among the primary determinants for cattle slaughter levels and thus for exportable supply," says USDA.
"Given the herd rebuilding efforts that are already underway in Canada, exports from Canada will be also be constrained, but there is still expected to be significant Canadian incentive to export because of U.S. demand for processing beef," says USDA. "With the apparent supply constraints among the major U.S. beef trading partners, Mexico and Central American countries should continue to pick up some of this slack."