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More beef but potentially less per-capita supply

Although U.S. beef exports remain a bright spot, growing tariff disadvantages make the sledding tougher.

Improved meat trade—more exports and fewer imports—should mean slightly less domestic per-capita beef consumption this year, despite anticipated record production. That’s according to Derrell Peel, Extension livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University.

“Beef production in 2019 is projected to increase to another record at 27.2 billion pounds, up about 1.1% over last year,” Peel explains in his latest weekly market comments. “Weather impacts are holding carcass weights well below year-ago levels so far this year and annual average carcass weights are projected to only increase slightly year over year. 

“Cattle slaughter is projected to increase about 1% year over year. With beef imports projected to decrease and beef exports expected to increase again in 2019, per-capita beef consumption is expected to decrease to 56.8 pounds (retail basis), down from 57.1 pounds one year ago.” He notes these projections reflect estimates and analysis by him and the Livestock Marketing Information Center.

The same goes for total meat production and consumption.

“Total 2019 meat production in the U.S. is currently projected to reach another record level of 103.3 billion pounds, up 1.3% year over year. However, per capita meat consumption may decrease slightly to 217.3 pounds from the 2018 level of 218.6 pounds,” Peel says. 

“The decrease in per-capita meat consumption reflects improved meat trade with projected decreases in meat imports and increased meat exports along with normal population growth. Total 2019 meat imports are projected to decrease to 4.3 billion pounds, the lowest since 2013, with record meat exports of 17.4 billion pounds. Total meat includes beef, pork, broiler, turkey, other chicken, veal and lamb.”

U.S. tariff disadvantage growing

Of course, there are numerous unresolved trade issues that could impact the export picture.

For instance, starting in January, U.S. beef competitors who are part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), saw their import duty rates in Japan drop 11% to 27.5%, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). The rate was scheduled to decline to 26.6% April 1. The duty rate for U.S. beef continues at 38.5%.

Even so, U.S. beef export to Japan in January increased 8% year-over-year to 25,925 metric tons, valued at $167 million (up 12%), according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the USMEF.

“It’s great to see Japan’s demand for U.S. beef increase in January despite these tariff rate changes for our major competitors,” says Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO. “But this disadvantage will become more and more pronounced over time, so negotiations toward a U.S.-Japan trade agreement cannot come soon enough. The playing field needs to be leveled as quickly as possible so that the U.S. industry can continue to capitalize on booming meat demand in Japan.”

Overall U.S. beef exports in January were 1% less than the previous year at 104,766 metric tons. Export value increased 3% to $642.3 million. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $284.86, down 3% from a year earlier.

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