July exports impressive, but challenges loom

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – U.S. beef and pork exports for July dipped slightly from the totals achieved in June, but both values exceeded year-ago levels, according to a report from the U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.) that details beef and pork exports through July.

What’s more, beef exports increased nearly 40% over July 2009, according to the report.

The cumulative January-July beef export value was $2.19 billion — 25% higher than last year’s pace and virtually even with the pre-bovine spongiform encephalopathy peak value of 2003. Pork export value was $2.74 billion, which is 8% higher than last year and just 1% off the all-time record pace established in 2008.

Philip Seng, U.S.M.E.F. president and chief executive officer, said beef export growth has been outstanding this year despite lingering market access limitations. Much of that success is due to the U.S. industry’s commitment to developing and marketing products tailored to consumers in key foreign markets, he added.

Pork export growth has also been quite strong, and Seng said the industry can be proud that 2010 export value is holding very close to the record pace of 2008 despite limited access to Russia and China. He noted that U.S. pork has performed particularly well in Mexico in each of the past two years and remains very strong in Japan.

But Seng cautions that the U.S. industry must be mindful of the fierce competition it faces in high-value, mainstay markets and must continue its commitment to innovative and aggressive marketing.

“It’s encouraging considering the challenges we have been facing internationally on beef that the numbers are up as dramatically as they are,” he said. “We’ve had some very dedicated programs in Japan, Korea and Taiwan as far as raising confidence of consumers in these markets. All in all, I think the packers have made an excellent effort as well as the producers in producing products for the specific needs of these customers internationally. I think it’s paying off.

Seng said 2008 was an important year for pork because the industry had a significant increase over 2007.

“To use that as the bench mark going forward is very significant," he said. "I’m very encouraged we’re doing what we’ve been able to do as far as pork for the first half of this year. But I also feel we’re going to be quite challenged as we go into the second half.

“Japan has large supplies of pork that they held off because of the heat in the summer,” Seng continued. “We see our competition stepping up in that market so that’s going to make it very, very tough. Mexico has been the market that has probably given us the most pleasure because it’s been very strong. We’re encouraged with Mexico and a lot of other markets around the world where the numbers are up pretty dramatically on pork.”

Seng noted these achievements were made with limited access the Russia and China and said those two markets remain key to U.S. pork’s long-term success.
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