Increased supplies from competitors, global economic volatility and high U.S. prices all continue to pressure U.S. beef exports.
“Although our direct red meat exports to China are quite limited, the aftershocks of China’s currency devaluation and concerns about the global economy were felt across the world,” says Philip Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). “This definitely impacted demand in many of our key export destinations.”
Beef export value in August (most recent data) was 24% less than year-ago levels, according to USMEF this week. Export value of $498 million was the lowest in 18 months. By volume, exports were 18% less than a year earlier.
Still, beef export value per head of fed slaughter this year is a touch higher than last year at $286.51.
For the first eight months of 2015, exports were down 11% in volume and 5% in value at $4.31 billion.
By way of comparison, pork exports were 1% less in August for volume and 19% less in value at $429.8 million—the lowest monthly value in four years. For January through August, pork exports were down 5% in volume and 17% in value at $3.75 billion.
Some relief may be in the offing in terms of competitive beef supplies.
“A long-awaited slowdown in Australian cattle slaughter finally materialized this summer, and Australian beef exports have begun to pull back from their record pace,” Seng explained. “European pork prices also seem to have found a bottom, and this should help level the playing field in those key Asian markets that saw a large influx of European pork over the past 18 months. It is important that we continue to identify opportunities to recapture and defend market share so that U.S. exports can finish strong in what has been a very difficult year.”
Regarding Australia from the opposite direction, Derrell Peel, Extension livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University, points out in his weekly market comments that U.S. beef imports were up 32.5% in the first seven months of 2015—much of it from Australia.
Peel explains that Australia’s lingering drought continued to force liquidation and increase beef production there.
“The combination of U.S. and Australian market conditions resulted in U.S. imports of Australian beef increasing 74% in 2014, accounting for 66% of the year-over-year increase in total U.S. beef imports,” Peel explains. “The U.S. surpassed Japan as the largest Australian beef export market in 2014 with the U.S. accounting for 30% of Australian beef exports in 2014. This pattern is continuing in 2015.”
But, Peel says, “This level of production is not sustainable and 2016 cattle numbers in Australia are projected to be 26.3 million head, down over 10% from 2014 levels. If realized, this 2016 cattle inventory would be the smallest since 1995.”
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