Exports of U.S. beef moved 3% higher in volume in May despite concerns of Russia's trade barriers, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
If Russia is excluded, beef export volume for May increased 12% and export volume for the first five months of 2013 rose 3.5%, instead of falling 3%.
"The loss of a key market like Russia ripples through the red meat industry," said U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng. "The absence of one of the largest meat purchasers in the world affects the volume of product sold and, more importantly, the price that other customers need to pay for it in a competitive marketplace."
In May, total U.S. beef (muscle cut and variety meat) exports rose 3% over last year's levels to 97,820 metric tons valued at $513.6 million, a 9% increase. They accounted for 10% of beef muscle cut production and 12.7% of beef and variety meat production, similar levels to last year.
For January through May, export volumes dipped 3% to 440,840 metric tons valued at $2.26 billion, a 3% increase over last year's record-setting pace.
The value of beef exports in May equated to $231.67 per head of fed slaughter, up from $207.09 last year. The year-to-date export value averaged $220.59 per head, up more than $10 from last year's total of $209.97.
Markets where access for U.S. beef has improved this year led the way in May. Japan jumped 74%, just 8% shy of totals posted in May 2003. Beef exports also rose56% to Hong Kong, and were steady to higher for Canada, Egypt, Central/South America and the Carribean.
"We were confident that the market for U.S. beef in Japan would rebound when our access expanded," said Seng. "Our team in Japan is working aggressively to explore untapped niches to maintain the growth momentum for beef."
Besides Russia, countries where beef exports remain challenged include Mexico, South Korea and ASEAN.
Mexico is buying less beef as consumers turn to more affordable proteins like poultry and pork. U.S. poultry exports to Mexico were up 19%. At the same time, South Korea's increased domestic beef production, combined with lower-priced Australian product, has dampened demand for U.S. beef.
Overall, the volume ranking was: Japan, Mexico, Canada, Egypt, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan.