The first month of 2013 offered a mix of good news and challenges for exports of U.S. beef during January, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Beef exports continued the trend shown in 2012 with higher export values on lower volumes.
Led by sharply higher exports to Hong Kong, Canada and Taiwan, and solid growth to Japan, beef exports for January rose 9.3% in value from year-ago levels on slightly lower (-3.2%) volumes.
"The year ahead will offer no shortage of challenges to red meat exports, which will require our industry to be creative and aggressive," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "On the beef side, we are still dealing with market access barriers in Saudi Arabia and significant obstacles in Russia, but there are signs for optimism in the months ahead with expanded beef access to Japan and Hong Kong that will provide a boost."
Seng also indicated that the continued devaluation of the Japanese yen, which has fallen 20% in value versus the U.S. dollar since last summer, will be a factor in purchasing patterns by this key trading partner for beef.
Beef export highlights
For the month of January, U.S. beef exports totaled 86,608 metric tons valued at $443.8 million. The decline in volume versus January 2012 was more than accounted for by a 91.5% drop in exports to Russia, which has been delisting U.S. beef plants for detection of ractopamine residues.
Canada emerged as the top volume and value market for U.S. beef exports in January, buying 16,586 metric tons (up 32% from last year) valued at $102.9 million (42% increase).
Hong Kong saw its U.S. beef purchases rise 144% in volume and 115% in value to 7,004 metric tons valued at $37.1 million – pushing it to No. 6 on the beef export list.
Taiwan continued its recovery as an export market with its January purchases rising 14.5% in volume and 39.7% in value (3,167 metric tons valued at $22.6 million).
The value of beef exports to South Korea rose 12.2% to $58.2 million on slightly lower volumes (down 1% to 11,602 metric tons).
Anticipating the Feb. 1 expansion of the market to beef from cattle under 30 months of age, Japan increased its U.S. beef purchases 5.5% in volume and 21.6% in value to 10,217 metric tons valued at $72.5 million.