DENVER — In recent weeks, U.S. beef exports have been bolstered by a sharp increase in sales in Russia, ranging from 800 to 1,200 metric tons per week, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Recent weekly sales data show beef exports to Russia at levels not seen since mid-2008, a year in which exports to Russia reached a record $95.3 million.

“This is an area we are very enthusiastic and excited about at this stage in the game,” said Thad Lively, U.S.M.E.F. senior vice president. “We track the export sales on a weekly basis and we’re off to a start this year that could put us on track to equal the export volume we had to Russia in 2008, which was a record year. The Russian economy is coming back slowly, like most countries in the world. The price of oil is going up and that is going to play a huge role in anything that happens in the Russian economy.

“The other thing that works to our advantage is the Russian currency is pretty strong compared to the U.S. dollar so that increases buying power of our customers in Russia,” he added. “All of these those factors combined with the fact there is a strong fundamental demand for our product in Russia, puts us in a strong position both competitively and in our ability to supply the market. We’re bullish. We think this is going to be a good year for exports to Russia.”

Russia is normally a mainstay market for beef liver and other variety meats, but Mr. Lively said the real difference recently has been the increase in muscle-cut demand. “That’s the big difference,” he adds.” The only thing that stood out was our liver exports. But what was different in 2008 and what we see for the first quarter of 2010 is have had significant cuts from the hindquarter, mainly round cuts, moving into Russia. With the exchange rate of the Russian currency to the Brazilian currency, Brazil’s our principal competitor in Russia, [makes the U.S.] very competitive in that market.”