Officials with the U.S. Meat Export Federation Tuesday said meat exports are looking good for the year, but absence from Russian markets, along with BSE barriers in China and Australia, continue to be a hurdle to further trade expansion.
The officials met as part of the organization's Strategic Planning Conference in Ft. Worth, Texas, Nov. 5-7.
A quick review of the year thus far reveals that while Russia and China have presented barriers, market access for U.S. meat in Japan and Hong Kong, along with strong prospects for trade deals, have provided U.S. producers and exporters significant opportunity.
Currently, U.S. meat is in 110 countries around the world, USMEF President Philip Seng said in a press call, but BSE regulations, farm bill provisions and trade negotiations remain top priority for USMEF as they work to advance that number.
BSE still plaguing trade
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy fears still have a hold on some countries, Seng said, despite the World Organization for Animal Health's status upgrade for the U.S. earlier this year.
2013 marks 10 years since BSE was first discovered in the United States.
"We still have some unfinished business when it comes to BSE," Seng said. "There's almost five nations that we have to deal with when it comes to access issues, number one being Australia."
Australia is the top competitor with the U.S. for meat exports, Seng explained, yet its markets have not been opened up to U.S. beef.
"We see this as basically something that's almost egregious at this time, and when you take a look at the international standards, the amount of scholarship and research that's gone into BSE, this is something that we need to address because it's our number one competitor internationally and it does have opportunity for our products," Seng said.
China is another potential market for U.S. beef that has been shuttered since the BSE outbreak.
"There's tremendous growth in China as that economy continues to perform and for the last ten years it’s a market we've been left out of," Seng said.
Though he admits it takes a long time to return to a market, he said USMEF is interested in government negotiations that may return U.S. beef to the Chinese marketplace.
Ractopamine keeps U.S. meat out of Russia
Russian markets continue to be closed to U.S. meat on concerns of Ractopamine residue, but USMEF's John Brook, regional director for Europe, Russia and the Middle East, said the industry is working to put together a program that conforms to Russian requirements.
Currently progress is being made, Brook said, but there continue to be hiccups in working with veterinary offices in Russia. He said there is potential that Russia will redistribute its meat quota delegated to the U.S. to other countries.
"While Russia has quite a bit of demand for meat at the moment, they are not rushing after it," he said. "Hopefully we will see that engagement accelerate now between the veterinary services in the United States and their Russian counterparts, and that progress will be made to reopen that market early in 2014."
Brook said, however, that he is confident the desire to import U.S. meat into Russia is still alive.
A bright spot in the meat industry, Seng said, are opportunities with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.
"Both of these initiatives portend strong sales, strong opportunities for us going forward," Seng said.
He noted that the addition of Japan to TPP talks presents a "tremendous opportunity" for U.S. meat products. Currently, the U.S. holds a 27% share in Japanese pork market.
As for the TTIP, Seng said "it's been a rougher road," but he suggests it still may provide big opportunities to advance U.S. red meat exports in participating countries.
Within the farm bill, Seng says specific priorities are the Market Access Program and also the Foreign Market Development Program. If a new farm bill is not authorized before the end of the year, these programs could be discontinued.
"We really definitely need to have something going forward because the farm bill not only impacts the US Meat export Federation but there are about 80 other organizations like ours that are working assiduously and in the international markets to promote $145 billion worth of agricultural exports that we have," Seng said.
In addition to the MAP and FMDP, the farm bill affects the Foreign Ag Service – an agency that USMEF relies on for export reporting.
"Not having a farm bill is going to really impact one of the brightest spots when it comes to U.S. agriculture," Seng said. "We see this as being very critical going forward."
Despite specific priorities for USMEF, the group says exports remain strong. The export dividend of a fed steer, Seng said, is $253 dollars per head, up $46 from last year. For pork, its $52 for every head.
"The export market is really the difference between profit and loss in agriculture, especially in the U.S. red meat industry," Seng said.