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Beef Export Volume Struggling

Beef exports are dropping in volume, but they remain higher in value than this time last year.

Despite a 15% decline in volume, June beef exports were still slightly higher in value than a year ago. These results are based on statistics released by the USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Beef exports in June totaled 94,119 metric tons valued at $464.4 million. The results continued this year's pattern, with export volume significantly lower than last year's record pace but with an increase in export value. Through June, this year's beef export volume was down 11% to 550,462 metric tons while export volume was up 4% to $2.66 billion. June export value equated to $203.90 per head of fed slaughter, with per-head value for the year reaching $208.88. This is 8.5% higher than in the first half of last year. For the year, exports accounted for just under 10% of total muscle cut production and 12.5% when including both muscle cuts and variety meat - lower than last year's ratios of 10.6% and 13.8%.

Mexico remained the leading volume market for U.S. beef exports in the first half of the year but slipped to third (behind Canada and Japan) in value, totaling 103,751 metric tons valued at $446 million. These totals were down 18% and 6%, respectively, compared to the first half of 2011. June was the slowest month of the year for beef exports to Mexico, reflecting a very unfavorable exchange rate. In fact, the peso weakened to more than 14 pesos per dollar in late May and early June, its lowest level since the economic crisis of 2008-2009. In recent weeks the peso has fared only slightly better, trading mostly in the range of 13 to 13.5 per dollar.

A sluggish economy and an oversupply of domestic beef have also slowed beef exports to Korea – not only for the United States but all major beef suppliers. U.S. exports to Korea fell 24% in volume (65,963 metric tons) in the first half of the year and 19% in value ($309.2 million). Although there was no major interruption in trade, June results in Korea also reflected some impact from the April 24 BSE case.

In several other major markets, U.S. beef achieved an increase in export value despite moderately lower volumes. These included Japan, where exports were down six% in volume (72,443 metric tons) but 14% higher in value ($476 million). For the second consecutive month, exports to Japan topped the $100 million mark ($105.3 million), dipping only slightly from the 2012 high reached in May. Exports to leading value market Canada were down 7% in volume (80,859 metric tons) in the first half but increased 12% in value ($519.9 million); the Middle East was down 8% in volume (74,030 metric tons) but 11% higher in value ($170 million); the ASEAN region was down 8% in volume (31,826 metric tons) but 16% higher in value ($134.6 million); and Hong Kong was down 10% in volume (24,073 metric tons) but 16% higher in value ($135.9 million).

Russia and Central and South America were destinations in which U.S. beef achieved significant growth in both volume and value in the first half of the year – especially impressive since both had set new records in 2011. Exports to Russia were up 17% in volume (38,210 metric tons) and 57% in value ($162.2 million), reflecting Russia's growing appetite for higher-quality U.S. muscle cuts and the expanded TRQ for U.S. beef. Exceptional growth in Chile and a steady climb in exports to Peru and Guatemala pushed results in Central and South America 34% higher in volume (17,187 metric tons) and 82% higher in value ($64 million).

"While we are pleased to see beef export value on a record pace again this year, USMEF is focused on reversing this decline in volume," Seng said. "The economic challenges are significant, and there is no single approach that applies in every market. But we are working with our contacts in the trade to educate customers about more economical beef cuts, which can help them maintain or expand their purchases of U.S. beef. We also take great care to emphasize the unique attributes of U.S. beef in an effort to build customer loyalty even in times of rising costs."

Complete export results for are available online.

TAGS: Regulatory
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