August Beef Exports Shatter Record

U.S. exports of beef and beef variety meats in August 2008 surpassed July 2008 totals by almost 15 percent and set a new, all-time monthly record in terms of value

U.S. exports of beef and beef variety meats in August 2008 surpassed July 2008 totals by almost 15 percent and set a new, all-time monthly record in terms of value, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) reported. The record total of $416 million exceeds the previous record of $387 million – set in June 2003, prior to the first case of BSE in the U.S. in December 2003 – by 7.5 percent. Through the first eight months of 2008, beef exports have recovered 93 percent of value and 75 percent of volume when compared to August 2003.Mexico and Canada Mexico and Canada continue to perform extremely well for U.S. beef, account for a combined 60 percent of beef export volume and 63 percent of export value in August. Beef exports to Mexico – which had set a record for both value and volume in July – set another value record of $150.6 million in August, despite a small decline in volume from the previous month. For January-August, beef exports to Mexico climbed 19 percent in volume (to 616.7 million pounds) and 25 percent in value (to $975.5 million) compared to the same period in 2007. Meanwhile, beef exports to Canada increased 35 percent in volume and 38 percent in value, to 241.9 million pounds and $513.8 million, respectively. J apan Beef exports to Japan over the first eight months of 2008 increased 64 percent in volume and value over last year, though volume slowed in August from its June-July peak – likely due to a decline in available cattle less than 21 months of age. USMEF says introduction of alternative beef cuts into Japan, funded in part by the beef checkoff, is expected to help maintain strong volumes through the winter months, despite the shortage of Japan-eligible cattle. Russia Total U.S. beef export volume during the first eight months of 2008 reached 63.8 million pounds valued at $67.5 million, with the August exports setting a new monthly value record at nearly $25 million. But USMEF President and CEO Phil Seng says sales have slowed in recent weeks due to economic conditions, devaluation of the ruble against the U.S. dollar, and a decline in the Brazilian real – which has restored much of the price advantage Brazilian beef has historically enjoyed in this market. “While August was still a strong month for beef and beef variety meat exports to Russia, we expect to see a slowdown in the fall months – especially for muscle cuts,” Seng said. “Russia’s beef demand is always somewhat seasonal, and other economic conditions are working against us there as well. But despite the downturn, we’re pleased with the performance for U.S. beef in Russia in what is essentially our first year back in that market since 2003.” South Korea Beef exports have gained traction in South Korea, with August totals of 12,404 metric tons (27.3 million pounds) valued at $62.7 million. But Seng cautioned that the U.S. beef industry faces a challenging environment as it attempts to reclaim what was once its third-largest export market: “While the distribution of U.S. beef continues to expand in Korea, it is still largely absent from the shelves of large discount retail chains,” he said. “Key large discounters have not yet announced plans to restart U.S. beef sales, and traders regard such an announcement as a watershed for jump-starting sales to other retail stores, as well as to large hotels and foodservice chains.” ASEAN Other Asian markets are performing extremely well for U.S. beef, as exports to the ASEAN region set a new record in August with a volume of 11.9 million pounds valued at $17.5 million. Vietnam currently accounts for about 71 percent of the volume and 75 percent of the value of ASEAN purchases, making it the fifth-largest market for beef exports (by value) this year. The fourth-largest market is Taiwan, where January-August beef exports increased 38 percent year-on-year to 42.7 million pounds valued at $91.2 million.