Beef exports strong in first quarter

by Bob Sims
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 Beef checkoff
The Beef Checkoff program's support bolsters expansion of US Beef exports.
 
AMES, Iowa- Iowa Beef producers believe that 96 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of US borders. With that in mind, they’re putting a spotlight on customers in other countries who are increasing their interests in what US beef has to offer.

A swell in beef production in the US has made a greater variety of cuts available internationally. The Beef Checkoff is providing expansion in 2017 despite a strong American dollar and limited trade in certain markets for US beef.

Key Asian markets look especially promising considering Q1 numbers. Japan has maintained its position as the leader in importing US beef. Exports in March rose over 40 percent year-over-year in volume (74,411 metric tons) and value ($427.3 million). US beef captured its highest ever market share in Japan’s high-value chilled sector with a 55 percent increase in chilled exports.

Japan also serves as a dominant market for beef tongue. The average value for tongue shipped to Japan last year was $6.82 per lb., a high premium relative to the domestic and other international markets. Last year saw Japan’s imports of US beef tongue increase 43 percent year-over-year to $286 million. Value went up Q1 2017 46 percent to $78 million.

In South Korea, the first quarter came in strong with US beef exports to the country up 23 percent to 42,551 metric tons in volume and value up 30 percent to $267.5 million. Chilled exports were up 78 percent due to Korea’s restaurant and retail sectors. The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) also has announced that Costco-Korea will carry 100 percent US beef in the chilled meat cases at all 15 of its Korean locations. This move by Costco could mean an opportunity for 15,000 metric tons of incremental new beef business in Korea, according to USMEF estimates.

Including a 10 percent increase in chilled beef volume, first quarter exports to Taiwan increased 28 percent in volume (9,746 metric tons) and 29 percent in value ($85.7 million).

US beef has seen good growth in the western hemisphere as well. While Mexico has been a tough market due to a weak peso, exports last year hit $975 million. For Q1 of this year, exports to Mexico were 17 percent ahead of last year’s pace due to a slight improvement in the exchange rate and programs that introduced a wider variety of affordable cuts to Mexican importers. First quarter value increased 3 percent to $226.8 million. Beef shoulder clods and rounds and beef variety meat are an important export to the Mexican market, as well.

Exports to Canada have rebounded in 2017 with increase in volume (29,909 metric tons, up 14 percent) and value ($190.5 million, up 19 percent) despite a slump in the value of the Canadian dollar. For the Canadian market, the Beef Checkoff helps match sellers and buyers and assists US exporters with regulatory compliance.

South American exports were down 2 percent in volume (4,919 metric tons) first quarter, but went up 16 percent ($23 million) in value. The uptick was driven mainly by strong performances in Peru and Colombia. Recently, the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed the arrival of the first US beef shipments to Brazil in the last 13 years. USMEF anticipates strong Brazilian demand for sirloin cap, which is the highest-value cut in this market. The Brazilian market also commands strong prices for beef livers, opening another potential market for the organ meat.

The Beef Checkoff program is also working on opening new markets for the export of US beef products. On the list is South Africa which reopened to US beef early last year. For Q1 2017, South Africa was the 11th largest volume market for US beef with a volume of 1,971 metric tons and a value of $1.5 million. Most of that volume consisted of beef livers.

According to the Beef Checkoff, exports continue to deliver good returns for US cattle producers. Export value per head of fed slaughter has averaged about $268 so far for the first quarter. This is an increase of 10 percent from the same period in 2016. The US industry exports 12.5 percent of its total beef production, and about 10 percent of beef muscle cuts.         

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