September U.S. beef exports struggled

by Keith Nunes
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DENVER — Beef plus beef variety-meat exports for September were down slightly from August, with the January-September cumulative total falling further behind last year’s pace, as beef exports continue to struggle due to market access restrictions and difficult global economic conditions, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

September beef plus beef variety-meat exports were down 25% in volume and 34% in value from September 2008, bringing the cumulative total for the year to 660,459 metric tons (1.46 billion lbs.) valued at $2.28 billion. This is 12% below last year’s pace in volume and 17% lower in value.

Much of the decline is attributable to the weak global market for beef variety meat. January-September variety meat exports of 214,717 metric tons (473.4 million lbs.) valued at $378 million trail last year’s totals by 22% in volume and 39% in value. Muscle-cut exports performed better, but still trail their 2008 pace by 6% in volume and 11% in value.

Beef exports to Japan (69,945 metric tons or 154.2 million lbs. valued at nearly $360 million) are 22% higher in volume and 21% higher in value than last year. September exports continued to outperform 2008, but at a slightly slower pace due to the seasonal decline in availability of slaughter-ready cattle under 21 months of age.

Taiwan, where U.S. beef exports had been slumping early in the year, continued its rebound in September with exports exceeding September 2008 by 26% in volume and 63% in value. These results pulled Taiwan to within 1% of the export value achieved in the first three quarters of 2008.

Hong Kong continued its surge in U.S. beef imports in September, surpassing the September 2008 total by 88% in volume and 74% in value. Exports to Hong Kong through September, are up 110% in volume and 78% in value. September exports to Vietnam were down compared to September 2008, but are still up 23% in volume and 30% in value for the year.

Declines in Mexico, Canada and Russia, however, have offset these encouraging performances. Exports to Mexico are down 28% in volume and 36% in value compared to the first three quarters of 2008, while exports to Canada are down 10% and 15%, respectively. Exports to Russia have declined by 47% in value and 69% in value, with muscle-cut exports decreasing nearly 80%.

U.S. lamb exports closed the third quarter at a very solid pace, driven by continued strong performance in the Caribbean and a surge in exports to Mexico. January-September lamb plus lamb variety meat exports reached 8,344 metric tons (18.4 million lbs.), which already exceeds the volume achieved in the entire calendar year of 2008. The export value of $21.1 million is 12% ahead of last year’s pace. Exports of lamb muscle cuts reached $17 million in value through September, a 7% increase over the first three quarters of last year.

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