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Agricultural News


A Closer Look at the Direction of US Beef Exports

Fri, 16 Apr 2010 8:09:30 CDT

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) February trade statistics came out this week and indicated that February beef exports were up 15 percent in value and nine percent in volume compared to February 2009. Through the first two months of 2010, beef and beef variety meat exports were up nine percent in volume and 11 percent in value ($481 million or $501 million if processed beef products are included). However, when looking at these percentages, we have to keep in mind that during this period last year the world economy was still in shock from the meltdown of late 2008 and the U.S. dollar was very strong when compared to most currencies around the world.


Through the first two months of 2010, the top ten markets for U.S. beef are Mexico (down 30 percent in value versus the same period in 2009), Canada (+31 percent), Japan (+34%), South Korea (unchanged), Vietnam (+2%), Taiwan (more than double 2009), Hong Kong (more than triple 2009), EU (double 2009), the Caribbean (+44%), and Egypt (+36%). Number 11 on this list would be Russia at $11 million compared to just under $3 million in trade during January and February 2009. These eleven markets accounted for 98 percent of the total value of U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports through February.

As you can see from these percentage changes, there are two distinct trends emerging thus far in 2010. The first is the continuation of the decline in demand for U.S. beef in our top export market. It's quite shocking to see that Jan.-Feb. U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports to Mexico are 43 percent lower than the first two months of 2008 and these comparisons to 2008 (versus 2009) are probably a better way to measure the trend. A closer look indicates that Jan.-Feb. 2008 variety meat exports to Mexico were $93 million compared to only $25 million in 2010. This continuing free-fall in variety meat exports accounts for three-quarters of the difference in sales to our top market versus 2009.


On the flip-side, it's extremely encouraging to see that with the exception of Canada where sales are flat compared to 2008, sales to every other market are up dramatically from 2008. In fact, despite the $93 million decline in sales to Mexico compared to 2008, total global beef and beef variety meat exports during Jan.-Feb. 2010 were still $38 million better than in 2008. Certainly the highlights include these huge increases in sales to Taiwan and Hong Kong. U.S. beef exports to the Caribbean are off to a red-hot start. The reduction in the EU's tariff from 20 percent to zero, as a result of last year's agreement on compensation pertaining to the hormone dispute, is also having a significant impact on our ability to export beef into that market. The fact that we've already exported $11 million in beef to Russia this year suggests that Russia's economy is recovering and that developments in this market should be watched closely in the coming months. Sales to Canadian should remain strong as long as the U.S. and Canadian dollars are at or near par.


On the import side, the drought ending rains and efforts to restock herds in Australia are certainly impacting U.S. cull cow and bull (lean beef trim) prices. A look at the unofficial data through mid-April indicates that U.S. imports of Australian (lean trim) beef are down 44 percent and the primary reason why total U.S. beef imports are down 34 percent. Imports of Canadian beef are up three percent during this period and over half of these imports (50.7 percent) are actually 50 percent lean trimmings. (About 35 percent of Canadian beef exports to the U.S. so far this year are whole muscle cuts, which is up about a percent from this time last year.)


In live cattle trade, imports of live Canadian steers and heifers directly for processing through April 3 were up 16 percent at 198,674 head. There were also 71,868 head of imported cull cows and bulls (direct for processing), which is up 28 percent on the year (unofficial data). A clear trend in the other direction, however, is the sharp decline in imports of Canadian feeder cattle so far this year at just under 51,000 head--a 60 percent decrease compared to just over 125,000 head during this same period last year. Imports of Mexican feeder cattle are running at their normal pace so far in 2010, at just under 300,000 head through April 10-up 13 percent from a year ago.

This article from Dr. Greg Doud, Chief Economist of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

 

 

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