February continued the trend set at the end of 2012 for U.S. beef exports with higher values on lower volumes, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Beef exports managed a 5% increase in value ($430 million) over February 2012 despite a slight decline in volume (86,367 mt).
"The good news is that the long-awaited change in beef access to Japan came through in February," said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. "Conversely, trade barriers and other obstacles seem to be emerging at a rather alarming rate in 2013. Sluggish economic conditions in certain markets also create a challenge, but this is why we have made such a strong effort to diversify our destinations for red meat exports over the years. As some of our key markets struggle, growth in other regions has helped provide balance."
Canada, Hong Kong lead beef export value growth
Through the first two months of the year, beef exports totaled 172,975 mt valued at $873.8 million – 2% lower in volume but 7% higher in value than last year's pace. Beef export value in February averaged $239 per head of fed slaughter – up nearly $31 from a year ago. This drove the January-February export value to $220.39 per head, compared to $202.89 in 2012.
The percentage of U.S. beef production exported in February was 10% for muscle cuts and 13.4% for combined muscle cuts and variety meat. This compares to 9% and 12.6%, respectively, from a year ago.
Beef exports to Canada are off to an outstanding start in 2013, totaling 31,464 mt (+31%) valued at $200.2 million (+46%) through February. Other markets performing well above year-ago levels include:
•Hong Kong, 15,821 mt (+144%) valued at $85.5 million (+126%).
•Taiwan, 5,708 mt (+16%) valued at $42.6 million (+39%).
•Philippines, 2,463 mt (+19%) valued at $11.3 million (+45%).
•Dominican Republic, 617 mt (+41%) valued at $5.6 million (+70%).
Because access for U.S. beef exports to Japan was expanded on Feb. 1 to include beef from cattle less than 30 months of age (up from 21 months), expectations for the month were very high. Exports to Japan did record small gains in February and moved 3% higher in volume (19,918 mt) and 12% higher in value ($137.9 million) for the year. Based on weekly export data the improvement in market access didn't trigger an increase in export activity late February, so the impact will be more pronounced in March.
The ractopamine impasse with Russia has had a dramatic impact on this year's export results. Coming off a record year in 2012, beef exports to Russia through February totaled only 1,693 mt (-82%) valued at $2.1 million (-94%).
The downturn in beef exports to Russia alone more than accounted for the overall volume decline in February.
Exports to former No. 1 market Mexico were also sharply lower at 29,933 mt (-21%) valued at $130.6 million (-23%).
Complete export results for U.S. beef and other meats are available online.