U.S. beef and pork exports are trending lower in volume but up in value from the record year in 2011, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
In a conference call Tuesday from its national planning session in Indianapolis, USMEF executives said that despite higher prices resulting from the 2012 drought, and continuing access issues in some key markets, exports of U.S. meat are on track to set a record this year in dollar value.
The U.S. red meat industry in 2011 exported a record $11.5 billion worth of product to almost 100 countries, and it will eclipse that record in 2012, said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO.
Beef exports through August were down 11 percent in volume but up 2 percent in dollar terms compared to the first eight months of 2011. Pork exports through August were up 2 percent in volume and 8 percent in value, according to the federation.
U.S. beef and pork exports are subject to geopolitical as well as economic developments around the global. For example, USMEF Chairperson Danita Rodibaugh said pork exports to Japan are afforded “limited access.”
Beef exports also face access issues in Japan based on health and safety regulations, yet consumer demand for U.S. beef remains high, said Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for Asia-Pacific. A recent decision by Japanese authorities to allow imports of beef from 30-month-old cattle, up from 20 months, will open that market to a larger volume of U.S. beef, he said.
However, a surplus of beef in South Korea will result in a drop in imports from the U.S. in the coming year, Haggard said. Pork exports to China and Hong Kong in the first eight months of the year were up 11 percent in volume and 35 percent in value, but that pace is starting to moderate, according to the federation.
There is growing demand in Southeast Asian for U.S. meat products as incomes rise in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, Haggard added. Overall, performance of U.S. meat exports in the Asia-Pacific region is mixed, but the trend is positive, he said.
Trade agreements will have a longer-term impact on U.S. meat exports. For example, free trade pacts implemented this year with South Korea, Colombia and Panama will result in lower tariffs, Seng noted. Also, Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization means that Russia must play by the same trade rules as other WTO members, he added.
Meat exports to Central America continue to increase, largely because of falling tariffs under the Central America Free Trade Agreement of 2004, said Chad Russell, regional director for Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic. “Central America is a small but fast-growing market,” he said.
Even in the European Union, which is dealing with an economic recession, the market for high-value beef from the U.S. remains strong, said John Brook, regional director for Europe, Russia and the Middle East. “I am impressed by the incredible resiliency of consumers in the EU,” he said.