WASHINGTON – In 2011, global demand for US beef should remain equally as strong, or perhaps stronger, than 2010; however, there will be less beef produced in the US available for export, according to the Jan. 19 edition of the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook from the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

In the face of tighter supplies, the export forecast for 2011 is unchanged from last year at 2.3 billion lbs. In the first and second quarters of this year, 15% and 2.6% year-over-year growth is anticipated. As beef supplies diminish in the second half of the year, export levels should fall below those posted in the third and fourth quarters of 2010, with the sharpest reduction 13% below 2010 in the fourth quarter.

Demand for US beef among Asian trading partners should remain high in 2011, particularly with a weaker US dollar and the resumption of global economic growth. Increased domestic production in Mexico, however, may somewhat hamper exports to that country, the top US beef
export market.

US beef exports for 2010 will likely be 2.3 billion lbs., demonstrating 19% yearly growth. The fourth quarter of this year should post over 25% year-over-year growth at 650 million lbs., the largest quarterly export quantity since 2003.

US beef imports in 2011 are forecast at 2.45 billion lbs., 5% above the 2010 import forecast. The 2.3 billion lbs. import estimate for 2010, however, is more than 11% below year-earlier levels. Oceania exports were constrained throughout much of 2010 — first due to herd rebuilding efforts and second by a strong Australian dollar — and conditions for lower import quantities from the top US beef suppliers should continue through at least the first half of 2011. The persistently strong Australian dollar is the predominant factor limiting shipments of beef to the US from already supply-tightened Oceania.

Subsequently, the first and second quarters of this year could demonstrate 4% and 6% year-over-year declines in total imports. Growth in total beef imports in 2011 is not forecast until the second half of the year, with nearly 9.5% and 26% growth expected in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

US beef imports for 2010 will outpace exports, but only by a narrow margin. The fourth-quarter 2010 import level is expected to be 470 million lbs., which would make the US a net exporter. On a volume basis, the US is rarely a net exporter. Quarterly since 2003, that has only occurred once, in the third quarter of 2008. Equal quantities of imports and exports are also forecast in the first quarter of this year, at 550 million lbs.