Tough year continues for meat exports

by Lawrence Aylward
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Intense competition and global economic worries have challenged exports of US meat products, according to USMEF.

WASHINGTON – Phil Seng didn’t mince words. “It has been a tough year for meat exports,” the president and CEO of the United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF) said in a conference call today.

Seng said beef exports are down 12 percent on volume (782,705 metric tons) and 8 percent on value ($4.8 billion) for the first nine months of the year when compared to the first nine months of 2014. Pork exports through the first nine months declined 4 percent in volume (1.58 million mt) and 17 percent in value ($4.21 billion).

“This is a trend that will hopefully be reversed in 2016,” Seng added.

In September, US pork exports showed modest improvement but beef exports endured the most difficult month in some time, according to USMEF.

September pork export volume was up 6 percent from a year ago to 172,012 metric tons (mt). Export value was $456.1 million, down 11 percent year-over-year but the highest since May. Beef export volume fell 21 percent from a year ago in September to 79,474 metric tons (mt) and value was down 28 percent to $456.6 million — the lowest since January.

Despite the gloom, there were a few bright sports. Beef exports were up in Vietnam, Korea and Taiwan, and pork exports increased in some nations.

“We’ve had our challenges and trade access still looms very large when we take a look at the international marketplace,” Seng said, noting that international trade agreements “make the playing field less than level.” On the commercial side, Seng said he has never seen the competition as intense as it is now.

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