Beef exports gain momentum

U.S. beef exports continue to rebound and pick up steam, despite challenges that include the increased value of the U.S. dollar. According to recent results from the U.S. Meat Export Federation, by the end of last year, beef exports were 11% higher than the previous year in terms of volume and 1% more in value at $6.34 billion.

Beef exports increased 11% in volume (1.19 million mt) and 1% in value ($6.34 billion) in 2016, compared with the previous year, according to the most recent statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Strong December results capped the positive year. Beef exports in December were 24% more year over year. That’s the most ever for the month and the largest monthly volume since July 2013.

Exports accounted for 13.7% of total beef production in 2016 and 10.5% for muscle cuts—up from 13.1% and 10%, respectively, in 2015. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $262.17, down 6% from 2015.

“In addition to the strength of the U.S. dollar, U.S. beef overcame other severe challenges in north Asian markets and achieved remarkable results,” said Phil Seng, USMEF CEO. “Despite facing higher tariff rates in Japan compared to Australian beef, U.S. beef displaced its competition and won back significant market share. And the investment the U.S. industry made to rebuild consumer confidence in Korea is paying tremendous dividends, especially in the retail sector. We’re seeing U.S. beef featured regularly by retailers who were once reluctant to carry the product.”

More specifically, strong demand for higher-value chilled cuts drove new value records in South Korea and Taiwan in 2016, along with resurgent demand in Japan.

U.S. beef exports to South Korea in 2016 (179,280 mt) were 42% more than the previous year. Value ($1.06 billion) was 31% more year over year. Korea’s per capita beef consumption set a new record in 2016 of 34 pounds (carcass weight) – so the U.S. not only gained market share, but also capitalized on the market’s overall growth.

U.S. beef exports to Taiwan in 2016  (44,053 mt) were 25% more than the previous year. The value of the those exports ($362.8 million) was 14% more.

U.S. beef exports to Japan last year were the most of the post-BSE era. Export volume (258,653 mt) was 26% more year over year. Export value ($1.51 billion) was 18% more.

U.S. beef exports to Mexico increased 7% year over year in volume (242,373 mt). Although challenged by a weak peso, Mexico remains a key destination for muscle cuts such as shoulder clods and rounds, as well as for beef variety meat.

Despite the devaluation of the peso against the U.S. dollar, increased packing capacity and scant cattle numbers also are pushing some U.S. fed cattle south of the border, according to David Anderson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist. In an early February issue of In the Cattle Markets, Anderson explained that 1,494 head of fed cattle traded from South Texas cattle feeders into Mexico so far this year. About 2,200 head were exported in all of 2016.

Coming the other way, there’s a new sale barn on the U.S. side of the border at Santa Teresa, N.M., right beside the border crossing there. All consignments are of Mexican origin coming into the U.S. The offering last Saturday was 1,616 head, mostly steers, mostly Medium and Large #1-#2, but some #1, too.

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