U.S. cattle/beef trade net value positive in '08

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON – In 2008, the estimated total dollar value of U.S. beef industry exports continued to improve, the Livestock Marketing Information Center stated, reaching levels not seen in several years. Beef and veal exports rebounded due to continued progress in reopening many markets to U.S. beef and veal products along with favorable trade conditions. As a result, the collective value of U.S. beef industry exports in 2008 totaled $5.67 billion versus $4.82 billion in 2007 and $5.74 billion in 2003. That was an 18% or $856 million yearly gain in value and only about 1% smaller than 2003’s.

Export values posted yearly gains in every category except for hides and skins, which declined in 2008 compared to 2007. Export values of beef and veal were 40% higher than 2007, with variety meat export values up 30% for the year.

In 2008, the combined value of U.S. beef, cattle and product imports declined from 2007’s mostly due to a decline in the value of beef and veal imports. The total value of beef, cattle and beef product imports was $4.75 billion in 2008, about 5% less than the record $5.02 billion set in 2007, but still the second-highest total value reported in the series. The value of beef and veal at $2.76 billion was 6% or $171 million smaller than 2007’s, as exchange rates were not favorable to imports during the first part of 2008. After posting a record value in 2007, the dollar value of live cattle and calve imports declined slightly in 2008.

Last year on a value basis, the U.S. returned to being a net cattle/beef exporter, a situation that had not occurred since the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the U.S. in late 2003 — that is, the U.S. exported more beef/veal, beef products and live cattle on a value basis than it imported in 2008. When all categories are accounted for in 2008, after posting a net export value of positive $2.2 billion in 2003 and a negative net export value of nearly $200 million in 2007; net export value was positive by more than $900 million in 2008, according to L.M.I.C.

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