1211USMEFexportsgrowingmome.cfm October beef, pork exports show growing momentum
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October beef, pork exports show growing momentum

U.S. beef exports hit their highest monthly volume for the entire year in October, while pork exports achieved their second-best month of 2009, according to the latest statistics released by U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Beef export volume climbs 12 percent over September, value up 5 percent

While the sluggish global economy and depressed currencies of many major trading partners have kept beef exports down, October showed promising signs of a rebound. Exports totaled 82,627 metric tons (182.2 million pounds) valued at $274.7 million, the largest monthly volume and third-highest monthly value (slightly behind May and June) of the year.

While still below year-ago levels, October's beef exports show a 12 percent increase in volume and 5 percent in value over the prior month, and exceed the 2009 monthly average by 11 percent in volume and 7.5 percent in value. January-October exports of 743,085 metric tons (1.64 billion pounds) valued at $2.56 billion still lag last year's pace by 12 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Brazil, the world's largest beef exporter, has seen its exports slip even more than the U.S.--15 percent in volume (no value figures are available). The only major exporter to see significant growth this year is Argentina, and that is due to the government's relaxation of 2008 export restrictions and a sharp increase in cattle slaughter that led to dramatically lower prices.

"This has been a tough year globally for the beef industry due to the rough economic conditions," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "This year USMEF realigned its resources to put a lot of our emphasis on markets and niches within markets that showed potential for near-term growth, such as the convenience store niche in Japan, and that has helped limit the overall decline even though the strong U.S. dollar made our products relatively more expensive."

Record U.S. beef exports to the Middle East represent one of the most positive drivers in October, totaling 10,608 metric tons (23.4 million pounds) valued at $14.9 million. This region continues to show a growing appetite for U.S. beef muscle cuts as exports through the first 10 months of the year more than doubled in volume compared to 2008. Egypt, which has long been a stellar market for beef variety meat, has imported nearly 30 times its 2008 volume of U.S. beef muscle cuts.

Japan also continues to outpace 2008 totals by a significant margin. October exports were up 24 percent in volume and 26 percent in value over October 2008. January-October exports to Japan totaled 78,823 metric tons (173.8 million pounds), valued at $404.9 million--an increase of 22 percent in both volume and value.

"We are extremely pleased with the growth achieved in Japan, as demand for U.S. beef continues to climb even in difficult economic times," said Seng. "It's important to remember that the U.S. industry is limited to exporting beef from cattle 20 months of age or younger, and this age restriction becomes particularly confining in the final months of the year as cattle supply dwindles. There is still tremendous room for growth in Japan if we can gain broader access to the market."

South Korea, where USMEF has conducted extensive marketing efforts in recent months at both retail and food service, saw imports of U.S. beef reach their highest monthly volume since February--5,695 metric tons (12.6 million pounds) valued at $20.9 million. While down from October of last year, these results are more than double the September volume and are 90 percent above the September value.

In December, USMEF launched a major U.S. beef imaging campaign in Korea which seeks to further capitalize on growing consumer demand and a strengthening Korean currency.

Other October highlights for U.S. beef included record exports to Greater China plus Vietnam, as well as the highest 2009 monthly volume of exports to both Russia and Taiwan. Demand in Taiwan appears to be holding up extremely well despite continued negative media coverage surrounding expanded market access for U.S. beef.

Even though beef exports to Mexico, the No. 1 destination for U.S. beef, remain down, there are signs of optimism here as well. October muscle cut exports there were just 4 percent below 2008 levels, although variety meat exports were down 39 percent in volume and 55 percent in value. For the year, total beef exports to Mexico trail last year's pace by 27 percent in volume and 36 percent in value.

October pork exports highest since March

Pork exports continued their upward momentum with a strong performance in October. Exports of 164,092 metric tons (361.8 million pounds) represented the second-largest monthly volume this year, while pork muscle cut exports achieved their highest volume of 2009 at 128,392 metric tons (283.1 million pounds).

Year-to-date exports are down 11 percent in volume (to 1.53 million metric tons or 3.37 billion pounds) and 13 percent in value (to $3.57 billion) compared to 2008, the highest ever year for pork exports, but they remain nearly 50 percent higher than the second-best year on record, 2007. This year, exports account for 22.3 percent of total production compared to 24 percent last year, while the value of exports equates to $38.17 per hog slaughtered compared to last year's $42.31.

"As we've seen on the beef side, the downturn in pork exports has been prevalent around the world," said Seng. "The most recent data shows pork exports from the European Union are down nearly 20 percent and Mexico's are down 17 percent."

Among major exporters, only Brazil and Chile are up, and those were driven by sharp drop in the export value of pork from those countries. In addition, Chile is rebounding from dioxin-related market access issues that hampered it in 2008, and it is benefiting from Chile's free trade agreement with South Korea, which limits duties on Chilean pork to about half of those paid on U.S. pork.

Mexico continues to be a stalwart for U.S. pork exports. For the first 10 months of 2009, exports to Mexico are up 33 percent in volume (409,628 metric tons or 903.1 million pounds) and 10 percent in value ($606.1 million) compared year-ago totals. It is the No. 1 volume market for U.S. pork exports.

Japan remains the No. 1 value market for U.S. pork. While export volume (355,323 metric tons or 783.4 million pounds) is down slightly through October, the value of nearly $1.3 billion still exceeds last year's pace by about 1 percent. October exports to Japan increased by nearly 20 percent in both volume and value over September and exceeded the 2009 monthly average in terms of both volume and value.

"Japanese consumers have embraced U.S. pork, and we've found the food service and retail sectors very receptive to partnering with USMEF on promotional and educational programs," said Seng. "Even though it is the No. 1 market for the value of U.S. pork exports, we still see considerable room for growth there."

October exports to the Greater China/Hong Kong region reached their highest level of the year despite a continued ban on direct exports to mainland China. U.S. pork also overcame a variety of market access issues by recording a strong month in Russia. For January through October, however, these markets are still down more than 40 percent compared to 2008.

Pork exports to the ASEAN region achieved their second-highest monthly total of the year in October, with the Philippines accounting for most of the region's growth. Results were similar in Korea, where pork exports still trail 2008 by about 19 percent, but October exports were the highest since May.

Though down slightly from an all-time record in September, pork exports to Taiwan recorded another solid month and have increased by 38 percent in volume and 27 percent in value for the year versus 2008. Exports to the Oceania region of Australia and New Zealand have increased 18 percent in volume and 11 percent in value.

Mexico drives strong growth in lamb exports

Exports of U.S. lamb continued their strong pace through October, exceeding the 2008 volume by more than 50 percent and surpassing last year's value by 13 percent. While the Caribbean remains the mainstay market in terms of value, a near tripling of lamb export volume to Mexico has been a major contributor to this year's performance. January-October lamb plus lamb variety meat export value exceed $23.3 million and is on pace to match the all-time record of $27.8 million set in 2006.

Complete statistics are available online.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (www.USMEF.org) is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry and is funded by USDA, exporting companies, and the beef, pork, corn and soybean checkoff programs.

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