WASHINGTON – Beef exports in September were well below the comparable year-ago period, while lamb exports remained steady, according to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF). However, beef exports through the third quarter of 2012 remain ahead of record-setting pace of 2011.

Despite sluggish volumes, September beef exports to Japan were 2 percent higher compared to 2011 at 12,487 metric tons. The value of beef exports to Japan surged nearly 25 percent to $86.6 million. USMEF said the trend was consistent with the January-September performance in which exports were steady in volume at 121,207 metric tons but 23 percent higher in value at $806.1 million.

Japan now ranks second in beef export value to Canada, where January-September exports declined 13 percent in volume to 125,625 metric tons but still gained 5 percent in value at $829.7 million.

Mexico continues as the leading volume market for US beef, but exports to Mexico have struggled in 2012 on a weak peso and sluggish economy. Through September, exports to Mexico were 21 percent lower than in 2011 in volume (151,767 metric tons) and 12 percent lower in value ($642.6 million), according to USMEF calculations.

Beef exports to Russia are on pace for another record year due to an expanded tariff-rate quota that has boosted demand. January-September exports advanced 8 percent in volume to 61,923 metric tons and 24 percent in value at $242 million over the same period in 2011, USMEF said.

Though US beef still lacks access to mainland China, export growth to Hong Kong were strong, according to USMEF. Beef exports to Hong Kong climbed 14 percent in volume through September at 43,038 metric tons, and increased 32 percent in value to $224 million.

Led by remarkable growth in Chile and solid performances in Peru and Guatemala, January-September exports to Central and South America advanced 36 percent in volume (26,186 metric tons) and were 73 percent higher in value ($99.2 million). Exports to the region already have exceeded last year’s full calendar year records of 25,823 metric tons and $85.5 million in value, according to USMEF.

US lamb exports, which have been pressured in by a poor economic environment in 2012, retreated 6 percent in volume in September to 1,336 metric tons. However, lamb exports were roughly steady in value at $2.3 million. For January through September, exports declined 30 percent in volume to 10,050 metric tons and 16 percent in value to $19.6 million. The USMEF board of directors recently adopted a resolution urging the US government to make access for US lamb a higher priority in trade negotiations. US lamb still lacks access to many key global markets.