A group of U.S. feed and cattle industry representatives saw first-hand the intensity of the global competition for red meat market share during a visit to the Middle East and Europe sponsored by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
The representatives attended the second-largest food industry show in the world – Gulfood in Dubai. There, they met with U.S. exporters, saw offerings from U.S. competitors like Australia, Brazil, India, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand; and received briefings on industry-supported marketing activities in the region.
The Market Expo agenda also included meetings with importers, processors and retailers, and opportunities to get insights into the import environment in the United Arab Emirates as well as the European Union.
"I was blown away by the choices at retail – the countries present at retail – from Australian beef to Brazilian to Indian," said Kim Brackett, cow/calf and stocker producer from Buhl, Idaho, after the Dubai portion of the trip. Brackett chairs the Cattlemen's Beef Board.
Iowa Corn Promotion Board Director Wayne Humphreys echoed Brackett's sentiments, noting that competitors are anxious to fill a vacuum in the market whenever U.S. product is faced with access issues, as American pork and beef are currently restricted in Russia and U.S. beef continues to face a ban in Saudi Arabia.
"If we are to realize a gain from adding value to our cattle and hogs in the form of meat, we need to export that meat," said Humphreys. "[The Middle East] is a market that is ripe for the picking for the export of high-quality U.S. beef."
Mark Jagels, USMEF chairman, said visitors saw the competitiveness of countries wanting to be in the market.
"In the EU, it's a value-added market for producers who want identity-preserved product. In the UAE, as we see in any foreign market, it's a worldwide game – very competitive. It gives the consumer choices. Australia has put a lot of dollars into [the UAE] market. The competitiveness is unbelievable. We have to make sure we have a presence," he said.
Keep at it
While each export market has its own characteristics and challenges, the participants in the Market Expo team came away with agreement on the potential for growth of U.S. red meat exports, and the importance of maintaining a strong presence in the markets.
One of the key challenges, according to Wes Plummer, chairman of the Montana Beef Council, is educating consumers and the trade in these export markets about the value of U.S. red meat products.
"Educating the public is a key," said Plummer. "I wish any local producers who are hesitant at all about spending checkoff dollars (in export markets) could come to one of these shows and see how this sells our beef. It's a true eye-opener."
Humphreys, who noted that the current export premium for U.S. pork is $53.95 per head and $244.96 per head of fed beef slaughter, cited the importance of having a global presence to maintain strong American red meat exports.
"We saw people sitting at tables at Gulfood looking at purchase orders," said Humphreys. "Individual producers – regardless of how much they have at stake back home – could not possibly make it happen half-a-world away to put buyers and sellers together," he said.
"The message we need to carry back home (to our members) is how hard their checkoff dollars are working for them overseas," said Brackett.
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