While U.S. beef exports to Taiwan set a new value record last year ($668 million), volume declined slightly from the previous year. But the market has set a blistering pace in 2022, with beef exports through April up 45% from a year ago in volume (nearly 26,000 metric tons) and soaring 85% in value ($313.4 million).
Joel Haggard, U.S. Meat Export Federation senior vice president for the Asia Pacific, explains that it took some time for buyers in Taiwan to adjust to U.S. beef gaining expanded access to China, where many of the same cuts are in high demand. With beef supplies expected to tighten in the second half of 2022, Taiwanese importers are now being more aggressive than ever with their purchases of U.S. beef.
"Let's back up to 2021 where China was really hitting on all cylinders. Buyers in Taiwan that compete for the same cuts that China does hesitated a little bit, thought maybe that that China buying spree would cool off later in the year, which it didn't, and so they kind of got left out," says Haggard. "And then if you fast forward to early this year, I think they jumped in because first of all, those buyers are very savvy, they're aware of the cattle cycle dynamics in the United States. And so they decided to jump in big and front loaded in terms of their buying.
Haggard says demand is good, even though they're going through a pandemic wave right now.
"The supermarket business is on fire. Costco is really the destination shopping place for beef, one of our largest chilled customers. But there are other players there," Haggard says. "There's some domestic chains and then you have this meat shop scene that's really kind of developed this year. Smaller meat shops, some run by importers and distributors themselves, have set up e-commerce channels. Ecommerce in Taiwan is not as developed as in China and Korea, but it's really gotten a boost this year.
Taiwan's restaurant sales have been impacted by COVID, but not as severely as in some other countries.
"In April, about the same time that Shanghai was locking down, the Taiwan government decided that they were going to actually abandon COVID-Zero and just encourage people that were infected to remain at home, but keep the rest of the economy open," says Haggard. "Food service has been hit a bit because the older population is a little bit reticent to go out, but the younger people are still going out. So overall the disruption has been much less than let's say Hong Kong and of course China."
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