Iowa beef producers go on trade mission to South Korea, Japan
Concern about the availability of U.S. beef was the message delivered by Asian beef importers at all business meetings held during an Iowa Meat Trade Mission to Japan and South Korea held Nov. 9 to 16. Iowa beef producers Scott Heater, Wapello, and Kent Pruismann, Rock Valley, represented the Iowa Beef Industry Council.
“We visited with high-level executives of the three major Japanese meat companies and they all expressed interest in continuing to buy U.S. beef. A year ago they were waiting for the under 30 months rule to take effect and were concerned with the price of corn,” said Heater. “Those concerns are no longer relevant. This year concerns are availability and price of U.S. beef.”
Japan remains the top export market for U.S. beef in 2013. Exports to Japan are up 52 percent in volume (183,942 metric tons) and 35 percent in value ($1.1 billion) for the year, accounting for 21.3 percent of the total volume of U.S. beef exports and 24.2 percent of the value.
Price is becoming more of an issue as U.S. beef supplies decline. “Their preference is for U.S. beef, but Australian grass-fed beef is our biggest competitor in Japan,” adds Pruismann. “Japan is 34 percent self-sufficient in feeding themselves, so it is a valuable market we need to continue to support and maintain our relationship.”
As for South Korea, “They have lots of people to feed and are much more price-sensitive. The importers are interested in buying more U.S. beef if the price is competitive,” said Heater. While an abundance of domestic supply has driven down all South Korean beef imports by 14 percent since 2011, the United States remains the No. 2 supplier of beef there with 34.5 percent market share (38 percent when measured by value), and it is the No. 5 market for U.S. beef exports by value (No. 6 by volume). In addition, the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement continues to lower tariffs, making U.S. products even more attractive.
“I was quite impressed with the staff of the U.S. Meat Export Federation in both countries,” said Pruismann. “The beef checkoff contributes funds from both the national and state level, so it’s good to meet these talented people and see their connections with the meat trade in each country.” U.S. beef exports added $249 to the value of a fed steer in September.
Pruismann and Heater represent different areas of the beef checkoff program. Pruismann, a cattle feeder, is one of Iowa’s representatives on the national Cattlemen’s Beef Board and Heater who raises seedstock, is secretary of the Iowa Beef Industry Council. They were part of an Iowa trade team that included representatives from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Iowa Pork Producers Association, and the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Partial funding for the trade mission was provided by the $1-per-head beef checkoff.