Meat Exports Looking Up

7/13/2013 7:00 AM

Despite a number of challenges, U.S. exports of red meat and poultry were for the most part higher in May.

Even pork exports, which declined sharply in the first four months of the year, were only modestly below last year’s levels and clearly on an upward trend compared with 2012.

Although there was an expectation earlier in the year that a change in the terms of trade with Japan would result in increased beef shipments there, the recent surge in exports has been quite impressive.

U.S. beef exports to Japan in May were 24,692 metric tons, 69 percent higher than the same period a year ago. Japan is now firmly, once again, the top market for U.S. beef, and in May, accounted for about 34 percent of total beef exports.

While exports to Japan have recovered to the pre-BSE levels of 2003, exports to South Korea, which also used to be a major market for U.S. beef, remain more limited.

In May, U.S. beef packers and exporters shipped 6,571 metric tons of beef to South Korea, 33 percent less than a year ago and only half of exports to that market in 2003.

Exports to other markets have been mixed. By far the biggest loss has been the Russian market. Exports to that market have dwindled to almost zero compared with 6,849 metric tons that were shipped in May 2012.

Exports to Vietnam also have almost ground to a halt, with May exports at just 272 metric tons, 88 percent lower than a year ago. But that reduction has been offset by larger exports to Hong Kong. From January through May, total beef exports to Hong Kong were 32,249 metric tons, some 14,215 tons, or 79 percent, higher than a year ago.

Exports to Taiwan have also recovered as authorities there changed the rules on the level of ractopamine allowed in beef last September. Total U.S. exports of fresh, frozen and cooked beef and veal in May were 71,640 metric tons, 4.3 percent higher than a year ago.

Pennsylvania Center for Beef Excellence Inc. with information from the CME Report, Cattle Buyers Weekly and other resources. For more information, call 717-705-1689.

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