U.S. beef exports gained some traction in January—3% more than the previous year—but the value of those exports was 13% less year to year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) this week.
More specifically, beef exports increased to most Asian markets in January, but the gains were mostly offset by fewer exports to Western Hemisphere markets and the Middle East. That includes the least volume of beef shipped to Mexico in almost three years, due to the weakened peso.
“Although it is encouraging to see beef exports to the Asian markets performing above year-ago levels, these results are a reminder of how disruptive the West Coast situation was for our industry,” says USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. He’s referring to the protracted dockworker labor dispute that snarled West Coast ports last year, disrupting U.S. shipments.
Despite lingering challenges, including barriers to market access, Seng emphasizes there are also emerging opportunities for U.S. beef.
“While we still face a tariff gap in Japan compared to Australian beef, Australia’s recent slowdown in production presents an opportunity to reclaim market share – an opportunity the U.S. industry is pursuing very aggressively,” Seng explains. “U.S. beef is also capitalizing on the tight domestic supplies in Korea, making strides in both the retail and foodservice sectors.”
January U.S. beef exports accounted for 12% of total beef production and 9% for muscle cuts only, steady with the same time a year earlier. Export value per head of fed slaughter was $239.88, down 11% from a year ago.
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