U.S. beef, pork export slump continues

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER — Although U.S. beef and pork exports both experienced declines in June, lamb exports continued to enjoy a strong year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Through the first six months of the year, 2009 is still shaping up as the second-best year for U.S. pork exports, but it’s still 9% behind 2008 in terms of volume and 7% in value. So far this year, the U.S. has exported 925,339 metric tons (more than 2 billion lbs.) of pork and pork variety meat valued at nearly $2.2 billion.

Compared to export totals in June 2008, which were the second-highest single month totals in history, combined pork and pork variety meat exports were down 31% in June 2009, totaling 133,594 metric tons (294.5 million lbs.) valued at $320.4 million.

The H1N1 influenza virus has been an important factor for U.S. pork exports, said Jon Caspers, U.S.M.E.F. chairman and a pork producer from Swaledale, Iowa. "We have had market-access issues in two of our top six pork export markets (China and Russia), which makes it all the more important to maintain a strong presence in our other key markets," he added.

Mexico has rebounded well from its experience with the flu virus, and U.S. pork exports there are up 52% in volume to 248,694 metric tons (658.5 million lbs.) for the first half of 2009. The value of those exports is up 37% to $369.6 million. In June of 2009 versus one year ago, pork exports were up 22% in volume but slipped 4.3% in value as consumers continue to look for more affordable menu options.

For the first half of 2009 compared to 2008, pork variety meat exports are up 27% in volume to 245,984 metric tons (542.3 million lbs.), and the value of those exports is up 29% to $379.2 million. However, the market for pork muscle cuts is down 18% in volume to 679,355 metric tons (nearly 1.5 billion lbs.) valued at almost $1.8 billion, a 12% decline.

U.S.M.E.F. said beef (combined muscle cuts and variety meat) exports declined 2% in volume and 6% in value for the first half of 2009, reaching 435,260 metric tons (959.6 million lbs.) valued at almost $1.5 billion. Beef export volumes for the month slipped 13% and the value fell 16%.

Beef muscle-cut exports have increased 4% over the first half of 2009 to 284,388 metric tons (almost 627 million lbs.) valued at $1.2 billion – a 1% increase over 2008. For June, beef muscle cuts increased 2.5% in volume while the value slipped just over 4%. This was the largest monthly beef muscle-cut export volume since last October.

U.S. beef variety meat exports are down 12% in volume (150,872 metric tons or 332.6 million lbs.) for the first six months of 2009 while the value of those exports has slipped 26% to $275.8 million. June exports of beef variety meat were down 40% from last June.

Total beef exports to Mexico were down 27% in volume in June and are off 22% for the first half of 2009, reaching 155,439 metric tons (342.7 million lbs.) valued at $498 million for the first six months.

For the first six months of 2009, U.S. lamb export volumes are up 58% to 5,276 metric tons (11.6 million lbs.) valued at $13.9 million, a 22% jump over 2008. June export volumes are up 119% and the value is up 106%. Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean are the top markets for U.S. lamb.

Complete June export statistics for pork, beef and lamb can be found online on U.S.M.E.F.’s statistics page.

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