US beef exports to Mideast sizzle despite turmoil

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – In 2010, US beef exports to the Middle East increased by more than one-third in volume and more than 75 percent in value – surpassing $260 million. But in light of the fact that political and social unrest are affecting several Middle Eastern countries so far this year, many observers questioned whether US beef exports to this troubled region would continue to increase at such a rapid pace.

Despite the unrest, beef exports to the Middle East have shown no signs of slowing down through the first quarter of the year. In fact, beef exports have increased another 35 percent in volume and 63 percent in value compared to their 2010 pace.

Keith Miller, US Meat Export Federation chairman, said he is very pleased with the strong performance of the Middle Eastern markets, which has helped keep the global value of US beef exports on a record pace so far this year. Political unrest in Egypt was of particular concern for him because it is by far the largest export market in the region and is an especially strong destination for beef livers and other variety meat – products that command relatively low domestic demand. However, so far this year, variety meat exports to Egypt are up more than 50 percent in value to $28.3 million, while muscle cut export value to Egypt has nearly doubled to $12.4 million.

“Whenever you have turmoil like we have in the Middle East, you always worry about what the markets are going to do and how it’s going to affect us here in the US,” Miller said. “To my surprise, it has been a really good year for us in the Middle East. That’s one of the reasons why you’re seeing such large volumes of beef moving all over the world in exports Just about every part of the world is holding its own or doing a lot better.”

Egypt was of a particular concern for Miller because by far it is the largest export market in the region and is an especially strong destination for beef livers and other variety meats.

“Those are products we don’t readily use a lot of here in the US,” he said. “So to be able to have a country like Egypt want those products as among their delicacies is a huge deal for us in being able to raise the carcass value of every animal. We were really worried with all the turmoil there was there in Egypt, but right now they’re up for the year. As long as we can keep that reliable, safe product going in there, they’re going to keep buying it from us — and that’s what we want.”
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