DENVER — January export results defied expectations despite an economic downturn and other challenges as beef muscle-cut exports increased 13% in volume (43,949 metric tons or 96.9 million lbs.) and 15% in value (to $186.5 million) compared to January 2008. Because beef variety-meat exports declined in both volume and value, total beef plus beef variety-meat exports were up 4% in value to $233 million, and essentially held even with January 2008 in terms of volume at 66,457 metric tons (146.5 million lbs.).

Pork exports also achieved very solid results in January, but with an increase in variety meat leading the way. Pork muscle cut exports declined by 4% in volume (to 112,417 metric tons or 247.8 million lbs.) compared to January 2008, but increased by 2% in value to $295.8 million. Pork variety meat surged by 46% in volume (to 44,233 metric tons or 97.5 million lbs.) and by 44% in value to $64.4 million. This resulted in total pork plus pork variety meat exports of 156,650 metric tons (345.3 million lbs.) valued at $360.2 million — an increase of 6% in volume and 8% in value over January 2008.

January’s pork-export results were also impressive, especially when compared to the unprecedented export levels of 2008, said Philip Seng, U.S. Meat Export Federation president and chief executive officer.

Regarding both beef and pork, U.S.M.E.F.’s international teams have refocused their efforts on market niches that offer a more immediate return on investment — as opposed to some long-range educational programs — in order to help offset the projections for lower global protein consumption driven by the economic downturn, he added

Despite a decline in exports to both countries, Mexico and Canada remained the top two destinations for U.S. beef in January, combining to account for 56% of the value and 54% of the volume worldwide. South Korea, which was closed to U.S. beef during the first half of 2008, emerged as the third-largest market in January. Korea’s imports, valued at $27.6 million, were about 20% higher than its December 2008 total.

Japan stood in fourth place for beef exports in terms of value ($21.8 million) and fifth place in terms of volume (4,069 metric tons or about 9 million lbs.). This represents an increase of 27% in value and 31% in volume over January 2008.

Mr. Seng said expanded market access in Japan remains a top priority for the beef industry, and that he considers the 20-month age limit on U.S. beef eligible for export to Japan a vital issue the countries must address as soon as possible.

View the full results of

January exports online.

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