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The West Coast port strike and other factors meant a slow start for US exports of beef and pork, according to USMEF.

WASHINGTON – Exports of US beef and pork products gained momentum in March after a sluggish start to 2015, the US Meat Export Federation reported.

Export volume of pork reached 191,041 metric tons (mt) in March which is the largest in 11 months, according to data compiled by USMEF. This was a 10 percent increase from February, but 9 percent lower compared to March 2014. The value of pork exports dropped 18 percent year-over-year to $495.3 million, but up 5 percent from February.

Beef export totals for March were down 7 percent to 86,774 mt, but 5 percent higher compared to February 2015, while export value of US beef climbed 2 percent to $527.3 million. USMEF said the value of beef exports was down slightly compared to February.

“Closure of the Russian market to European pork continues to impact all major pork suppliers, as the EU has focused very aggressively on alternative markets in Asia,” said Philip Seng, president and CEO of USMEF. “In the beef complex, the projected slowdown in Australia’s production may still be coming, but certainly did not materialize in the first quarter.”

In addition to representing a rebound in exports of beef and pork, March results also reflected some relief from the West Coast port closures that stranded shipments of meat to foreign markets in January and February. USMEF said port traffic improved after the port association and union reached a tentative labor contract, but congestion lingered for several weeks at some major ports.

“After months of frustration, the US meat industry was finally able to reassure Asian buyers that the worst of the crisis was behind us and that they could once again count on the US to fulfill its role as a reliable supplier,”S Seng said. This was especially important for customers purchasing chilled pork and beef, which require very prompt delivery due to product shelf life.”

Seng added that US exporters found their competitive position had changed in the global markets for beef and pork. A stronger dollar and large volumes of cheaper beef and pork products from other countries created a price disadvantage for US exporters.

“These are unusual conditions that are made more difficult by the strong US dollar, but now isn’t the time to dwell on the stiff headwinds we are facing,” Seng said. “We must aggressively defend the customer base the US industry has worked so hard to build over the years by reaffirming the value and quality delivered by US red meat.”