Red meat exports finished strong in 2009

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – Although the relentless snowstorms in Washington, D.C., delayed the full release of year-end 2009 export data for U.S. pork and beef, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.) has compiled a summary of the preliminary results in major markets. Although year-end exports of both pork and beef were down compared to 2008, December results were very strong and U.S. red-meat exports definitely finished 2009 on a high note.

U.S. pork and beef exports showed increasing momentum in the final months of the year as the economies and currencies of several major trading partners strengthened and consumer confidence improved in many foreign markets.

December pork plus pork variety meat exports were 8% higher than December 2008, with muscle-cut exports increasing by 14%. Exports for the entire year trailed 2008 by about 11% in value ($4.33 billion vs. $4.88 billion) and 9% in volume (1.87 billion vs. 2.05 billion metric tons).

These totals, however, exceed 2007 results by 43% in volume and 37% in value – which makes 2009 the second-best year on record for U.S. pork exports, U.S.M.E.F. said. Mexico led the way in volume with 504,029 metric tons – an increase of 27% over 2008. Japan was once again the value leader for U.S. pork, nearly matching its all-time single market record ($1.540 billion vs. $1.545 billion in 2008).

December beef plus beef variety meat exports were 9% above December 2008 in terms of volume, and 4% higher in value. For the entire year, exports trailed 2008 by about 9% in volume (899,707 vs. 984,712 metric tons) and 15% in value ($3.09 billion vs. $3.62 billion). However, a large portion of this decline is attributable to a drop in demand in Mexico, where the economy was extremely sluggish for most of the year. Exports to Mexico declined 27% in volume and 35% in value from 2008, but showed signs of recovery toward year’s end.

Exports to Japan increased 24% in volume and 23% in value, despite the continued restriction of U.S. beef imports to beef from cattle less than 21 months of age. Other markets performing extremely well in 2009 included Hong Kong (up 147% in volume and 104% in value), Vietnam (up 31% and 29%, respectively) and Taiwan, which set a new value record of $141 million. Exports to South Korea also gained strength during the final weeks of 2009.

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