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Beef and cattle trade should improve

Beef cattle
Mixed bag of pros and cons suggests we should see a slow climb up.

The U.S. beef and cattle trade and pricing should improve, but it will happen slowly.

Lower prices and increased supplies in the U.S. will likely continue to generally support increased U.S. beef exports and diminish beef imports, says Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University extension livestock marketing specialist.

The latest beef and cattle trade data shows a mixed bag of global market impacts.

Total beef exports were down 5.3% in April compared with last year. This follows year-over-year increases in January and March, and leaves the year-to-date total through April 0.4% below the same period in 2015.

Export tallies
Exports to two major U.S. beef markets, Japan and Hong Kong, were both down versus last year, after increasing earlier this year. April exports to Japan dropped 10.9% year-over-year, and exports to Hong Kong decreased by 36.9% compared with last year.

This leaves year-to-date beef exports to Japan up a scant 0.6% while exports to Hong Kong are down 2.3% for the first four months of the year, Peel says.

Further, beef exports to South Korea were down fractionally in April, but are still up 12.2% for the year, compared with last year.

South Korea was the only major beef export market to show year-over-year increases in 2015, Peel adds.

Exports to Canada continued year-over-year decreases in April, down 6.8% compared with one year earlier, and down 8.2% for the year to date compared with last year.

Beef exports to Mexico, however, improved in March and April after being down in January and February. April beef exports to Mexico were up 32.9% year-over-year, with the year-to-date total now down 0.9% from last year.

Import tallies
Peel says beef imports are also a mixed bag, but generally positive.

Total April beef imports were down 21.2% from one year ago. Year-to-date beef imports are down 12.8% from 2015.

Decreased beef imports are led by sharp reductions in imports from Australia and New Zealand. Imports of Australian beef were down 41.9% in April compared with last year and year-to-date imports are down 21.7%. Beef imports from New Zealand were down 29.6% in April and are down 21.7% so far this year.

In contrast, beef imports from Mexico continue to grow and were up 7.5% year-over-year in April. They are up 11% in the first four months of 2016. Imports of Canadian beef were up 13.1% in April and are up 8.0% for the year to date.

Total cattle imports from Canada were down 13.7% in April compared with one year ago. This total includes a 25.5% year-over-year increase in slaughter cattle imports and a 38.7% decrease in feeder cattle imports in April compared with last year.

Cattle imports from Mexico were up 22.7% in April compared with last year, but are still down 1.5% for the year to date.

Economic factors
The U.S. dollar, which briefly weakened in the past few weeks, has strengthened again and will continue to hinder beef and cattle exports and support beef imports.

Peel says conditions in other countries matter as well and, in particular, herd rebuilding in Canada, Mexico and Australia will impact flows of cattle and beef.

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