Beef exports trend higher in January: COVID-19 effect yet to be seen

Beef exports showed promising strength in January.

4 Min Read
Meat Exports
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Beef exports posted modest growth in January, increasing 2.5% from a year ago in volume at 107,374 metric tons (mt) and 5% in value at $672.7 million. But beef muscle cut exports were the highest ever for the month of January at 81,342 mt, up 4% from a year ago, while muscle cut value increased 5% to $589.2 million.

Export value per head of fed slaughter was $302.93, up 3% from a year ago. Exports accounted for 13.1% of total beef production, down slightly from a year ago, and 10.6% for muscle cuts only, steady with January 2019.

Release of the January export data comes as coronavirus is dominating news headlines, including those related to global trade. U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Dan Halstrom said the virus has had an impact on red meat exports, which will likely be more evident in February and March data, but a number of supply and demand fundamentals and market access improvements have underpinned continued strong export volumes.

"The first quarantine actions in China were taken in late January and the calendar had turned to February before coronavirus became a major health concern in countries such as South Korea and Japan," Halstrom said. "But despite logistical challenges, a severe decline in tourism and a notable impact on sit-down dining, overall demand for red meat in these markets is quite resilient.”

Related:Exports and imports: It’s about adding value to the supply

Retail meat sales have remained strong and both retailers and restaurateurs are utilizing e-commerce and delivery services at unprecedented levels, he said. “While it's definitely a challenging situation, the Asian food industry is adapting to these conditions and finding creative ways to accommodate consumers."

Taiwan, Mexico lead January beef export growth

The value of U.S. beef exports to Taiwan was record-high for the seventh consecutive year in 2019, and exports are off to a great start in 2020. January exports to Taiwan increased 24% from a year ago to 5,226 mt, valued at $43.5 million (up 18%). The United States dominates Taiwan's chilled beef export market, capturing 75% market share last year and 83% in January 2020.

"The Taiwanese market is a remarkable success story for U.S. beef, especially for a country with fewer than 25 million residents," Halstrom said. "U.S. beef has an ever-widening footprint in Taiwan that goes way beyond high-end dining and retail.

“By introducing a wider range of cuts, the U.S. industry and its importers and customers are finding new ways, including exciting new retail packaging and merchandising techniques, to capitalize on growing demand in Taiwan and make U.S. beef available to more and more consumers."

January beef shipments to Mexico were up 4% from a year ago to 21,992 mt, while value jumped 15% to $117.2 million. Mexico is the largest destination for beef variety meat exports, which increased 9% to 9,438 mt, valued at $26.7 million, up 14%.

Coming off a record year in 2019, exports to South Korea remained strong in January, though volume was down slightly from a year ago at 17,794 mt, down 1%, and value dipped 3% to $130.6 million. However, U.S. beef continues to capture greater market share in Korea and the outlook remains positive for export growth in 2020, despite Korea's current economic challenges.

Beef exports to leading market Japan, which are also benefiting from lower tariff rates this year, declined 3% from a year ago in January to 25,205 mt, valued at $158.1 million, down 5%. On a more positive note, import data show chilled beef volume to Japan increased 14% to 10,686 mt. The tariff rate for U.S. beef muscle cuts dropped from 38.5% to 26.6% on Jan. 1 and will decline to 25.8% on April 1, the same rates imposed on major competitors in Japan.

Other January highlights for U.S. beef exports include:

  • Exports to the Middle East jumped 16% to 6,464 mt, valued at $17 million, up 12%. Variety meat exports to Egypt (primarily livers) make up most of the U.S. export volume to the region, but January results were also bolstered by larger muscle cut exports to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

  • Led by steady growth in the Dominican Republic and a large increase in the Bahamas, exports to the Caribbean were up 3% from a year ago to 2,212 mt, while value increased 15% to $16.3 million.

  • Beef exports to China continue to develop, with January volume reaching 876 mt, up 7% year-over-year, valued at $6.5 million, up 4%. However, the market access gains included in the U.S.-China Phase One agreement have not yet been implemented. This agreement will significantly expand the percentage of U.S. beef eligible for export to China and holds outstanding potential for the U.S. industry.

Source: USMEFwhich is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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