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Year-end export totals show positive trends for U.S. pork, beef

U.S. red meat exports finished 2009 on a positive note with healthy gains in volume over December of a year ago, positioning both beef and pork exports to start 2010 on an upward trend, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Although 2009 year-end exports of both U.S. pork and beef were down compared to the prior year, U.S. exports equaled or bettered their main international competitors.

U.S. pork exports closed the year with an eight-percent jump in volume and six percent in value for the month of December compared to year-ago totals. For the calendar year, pork exports registered the second-highest total in history, but fell nine percent in volume and 11 percent in value behind the record-setting totals of 2008.

However, U.S. pork exports still outpaced the performance of global competitors, which (based on available data) slumped 15 percent in value for the year, led by a 22-percent drop for European Union pork producers.

The story was similar for U.S. beef exports, which rose nine percent in volume and four percent in value for the month of December compared to 2008. For all of 2009, global beef export value (estimated from available trade data) fell 16 percent, with Brazil's export value tumbling 23 percent and Australia's falling 18.5 percent.

U.S. beef exports for all of 2009 slipped nine percent in volume and 15 percent in value compared to 2008.

"It's been a challenging year for beef and pork producers around the globe, not just in the United States," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "However, it is encouraging to see consumer confidence returning and very positive signs of growth."

Seng also noted that USMEF is committing significant resources to key export markets to continue the momentum. On the beef side, the USMEF "Trust" imaging campaign in South Korea has generated very positive results in what was the No. 3 U.S. beef export market prior to the discovery of BSE in 2003. The U.S. soybean industry has also provided a $1.35 million cash infusion to promote U.S. pork exports. USMEF is combining those funds with existing USDA Market Access Program funds and new matching contributions from retailers to create more than $4 million in promotional impact for pork marketing programs in Japan, Mexico and South Korea.

Pork exports trail 2008, but still far surpass any previous year

For the entire year, U.S. export volume of 1.87 million metric tons (4.11 billion pounds) trailed the record pace of 2008 by 9 percent, while value ($4.33 billion) was down by 11 percent. A comparison to 2007, however, illustrates the degree to which U.S. exports have expanded in a two-year period: 2009 pork/pork variety meat exports exceeded 2007 levels by 43 percent in volume and 37 percent in value.

Mexico was the volume leader with 503,503 metric tons (1.11 billion pounds) valued at $762.35 million--an increase of 27 percent and 10 percent, respectively, over 2008. This record-breaking performance was particularly impressive considering the country's sluggish economy and a temporary midyear disruption in pork demand due to H1N1 influenza.

U.S. pork recorded another spectacular year in Japan, falling just short ($1.54 billion versus $1.545 billion) of the value record set in 2008. This was achieved despite an increase of about five percent in Japan's domestic pork production. The U.S. share of Japan's imported pork market also reached an all-time high of 46 percent.

In addition to Mexico, single-year pork/pork variety meat export records were established in the following markets:

Taiwan (up 35 percent in volume and 26 percent in value over 2008), the Philippines (up 44 percent in volume and 41 percent in value), Australia (up 10 percent in volume and 3 percent in value), New Zealand (up 11 percent in volume and 1 percent in value) and Central and South America (up 12 percent in volume and 14 percent in value). Exports to the Caribbean also set a record, increasing 18 percent in volume and 10 percent in value over 2008. This performance was led by a surge in pork shipments to the Dominican Republic (up 41 percent in volume and 32 percent in value), with the United States even surpassing the tariff rate quota and safeguards established in the CAFTA-DR free trade agreement.

The biggest declines in U.S. pork exports in 2009 came in two areas where market access and increases in domestic pork production were factors: China/Hong Kong and Russia. Exports to China/Hong Kong declined 35 percent in volume and 38 percent in value. Mainland China has been closed to U.S. pork since June 2009 due to H1N1 influenza. Exports to Russia fell 36 percent in volume and 39 percent in value. Other markets that showed a significant decline in 2009 included Vietnam, Singapore, South Korea and the European Union.

The U.S. did fill its pork tariff rate quota with Russia of 100,000 metric tons (220.5 million pounds), exporting 102,805 metric tons (226.6 million pounds) of muscle cuts. Exports within the TRQ face a 15 percent duty while over-quota exports face a 75 percent duty. For 2010, Russia has reduced the U.S. TRQ to 57,500 metric tons (126.8 million pounds), and the high over-quota duty is expected to limit U.S. pork exports.

Overall, pork and pork variety meat exports equated to 22.5 percent of U.S. production compared to 24.4 percent in 2008. The value of exports per head slaughtered was $38.44 compared to $42.31 in 2008.

Global pork export value for all major exporters was down in 2009 by about 15 percent (to $12.75 billion). This decline included Mexico (-29 percent), the European Union (-22 percent) Brazil (-17 percent), Canada (-11 percent), with China and Chile each down about 1 percent. The United States maintained a steady market share, accounting for about one-third of all global pork exports in 2009.

Beef exports gain momentum as global economy shows signs of improvement

For calendar year 2009, beef exports finished about 9 percent below 2008 in volume (897,376 metric tons or 1.98 billion pounds) and about 15 percent lower in value ($3.08 billion). When examined more closely, however, U.S. beef exports held up relatively well considering that the bleak global economy that prevailed throughout much of the year had a particularly strong impact on beef demand and may have benefited pork.

Much of the decline in beef exports is attributable to lower demand in Mexico, due to that country's deep recession and devaluation of the peso. Total beef/beef variety meat exports to Mexico declined 27 percent in volume (to 291,700 metric tons or 643.1 million pounds) and 35 percent in value (to $909 million). In fact, exports of HS chapter 0504 products (primarily tripe) to Mexico plunged 52 percent in volume and 64 percent in value. If these products are excluded from global totals, U.S. beef/beef variety meat exports declined by just 1.5 percent in volume and 8 percent in value compared to 2008.

U.S. beef also fared better than many of its global competitors in 2009. Brazilian beef exports declined 23 percent to $3.89 billion; Australia's export value dropped 18.5 percent to $3.76 billion and New Zealand fell 19 percent to $1.233 billion. Canada's exports declined at a slightly lower rate, but still fell 13 percent to $1.116 billion. Argentina was the only major exporter to record an increase in 2009 (to $1.8 billion). But while Argentina's export volume increased 56 percent, it achieved only a 6 percent increase in value. This is a strong indication that the increase in exports was largely driven by herd liquidation.

The most positive trend for U.S. beef exports in 2009 was the explosive growth achieved in Asian markets:

December exports to Japan were well above the previous year's level, capping off a year in which exports surged by 23 percent in both volume and value (to 91,467 metric tons or 201.6 million pounds valued at $470 million).

December exports to Taiwan increased 29 percent from 2008 and jumped 53 percent from November 2009--suggesting a quick recovery from the widely publicized controversy over the new trade protocol adopted in October. For the year, export volume was steady at 27,256 metric tons (60.1 million pounds) but export value increased 11 percent to an all-time record of $141.2 million.

December exports to Vietnam were up 59 percent in volume and 47 percent in value over 2008. For the year, record-large exports to Vietnam increased by 31 percent in volume (to 53,675 metric tons or 118.33 million pounds) and 29 percent in value (to $168 million).

December exports to Hong Kong were up 124 percent in volume and 159 percent in value over year-ago levels. For the year, exports to Hong Kong increased by 145 percent in volume (to 24,060 metric tons or 53 million pounds) and by 104 percent in value (to $84.56 million).

Year-end exports to South Korea were down compared to 2008, but gained considerable strength as the year came to a close. December exports to Korea were $29.48 million--nearly double the value from December 2008. According to weekly export data, export volume to Korea exceeded 1,000 metric tons per week since late September and averaged about 1,240 metric tons per week since the beginning of 2010.

For the year, 10 percent of U.S. beef and beef variety meat production was exported compared to 11.6 percent in 2008. The value of exports per head of steer and heifer slaughter was $118.27 compared to $133.84 in 2008.

Strong year for lamb exports as muscle cuts set new value record

U.S. lamb muscle cut exports set a new value record of $21.9 million in 2009, breaking the previous year's mark by 2 percent. Muscle cut volume was 6,974 metric tons (15.38 million pounds), trailing only the 2006 record volume of 7,941 metric tons (17.51 million pounds).

Combined lamb plus lamb variety meat exports fell just short of the 2006 value record of $27.75 million, but the year-end total ($27.38 million) increased 8 percent over 2008. The year-end volume of 11,427 metric tons (25.19 million pounds) was 45 percent higher than 2008 and was also the second-highest total (to 2006) on record.

The Caribbean remained the leading value market for U.S. lamb, with a combined lamb/lamb variety meat total of $11.82 million. But exports to Mexico tripled in value over 2008, rising to $8.13 million.

Complete 2009 statistics for pork, beef and lamb exports are 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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