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U.S. Red Meat Exports Top $11.5 Billion in 2011; New Records for Beef

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Date: Monday, February 13, 2012

According to year-end statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program, exports of U.S. beef set new records in 2011, reaching an all-time high in both volume and value.

Beef exports finished the year at 1.287 million metric tons valued at $5.42 billion. This broke the 2003 volume record of 1.274 million metric tons and easily surpassed the 2010 value record of $4.08 billion. Export volume was 21 percent larger than in 2010, with value up 33 percent.

“It is extremely gratifying to see all red meat exports reaching new heights, even with the various trade obstacles we still face across the world,” says USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “U.S. producers have provided superior products to market and made solid investments in the international markets – not only from pork, beef and lamb checkoff programs, but also from the corn and soybean checkoffs. Along with the experienced staff we have in place in the foreign markets, our trade officials who continue to work for greater market access and the exporters and traders who work every day to grow the presence of U.S. meat worldwide, they are to be commended for their foresight and commitment to global marketing.”

While the record-breaking performance of 2011 is impressive, Seng feels strongly that USMEF and its industry partners have laid the groundwork for even greater success in the future.

“Demand for U.S. red meat has never been stronger, and we are well-positioned to build on this success,” he says. “We have the marketing tools in place to showcase the quality and consistency of U.S. products, which our industry is able to deliver at a very competitive price and end users are able to utilize in extremely creative and innovative ways. Real opportunities exist for further growth, and USMEF fully intends to capitalize on this strong momentum.”

Beef export value more than $206 per head of fed slaughter

Beef export value per fed steer and heifer slaughtered was a record $206.37 in 2011, which was more than one-third higher than a year ago ($153.09). Beef exports equated to 14 percent of total production when including both muscle cuts and variety meat. For muscle cuts only, exports totaled 11 percent of total production. In 2010, these ratios were 11.7 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

“We have greatly diversified our beef export destinations and by doing so we have eclipsed the level of exports we had prior to BSE,” Seng says. “By building new markets and steadily reclaiming the market share we lost in Asia due to BSE, we were able to approach the $5.5 billion mark in 2011 – that’s one-third higher than the 2010 record, and a very significant achievement for the U.S. beef industry. This outstanding performance in the international markets is exactly the catalyst we need to grow our cattle numbers. Nothing helps grow operations like a boost in profitability, and the success we are achieving is definitely contributing to producers’ bottom line.”

In December, beef exports exceeded year-ago totals by about 6 percent in volume (239 million pounds) and 17 percent in value ($476.2 million) – posting the highest monthly volume total since September and the highest value total since August.

Canada was the leading value market for U.S. beef in 2011, reaching $1.03 billion – a 41 percent increase over 2010. Volume to Canada was up 25 percent to 421 million pounds. Mexico was the volume pacesetter at 566 million pounds (up 4 percent from 2010), with export value totaling $985.3 million (up 20 percent).

Exports to Japan surged 27 percent in volume (349 million pounds) and 37 percent in value ($874.4 million), while exports to Korea grew by 37 percent in volume (339 million pounds) and about one-third in value ($686 million), as the U.S. took significant market share from Australia.

“Programs such as ‘We Care’ in Japan and ‘To Trust’ in Korea have been very successful in rebuilding consumer confidence and positioning U.S. beef for success in these markets,” Seng says. “Safety continues to be a significant concern for our customers in both countries, but we are reaching a point at which we can focus more on the quality and enjoyment of the U.S. product. That is what made us the No. 1 supplier in these markets prior to 2003, and through effective marketing it will be the driving factor that allows us to reclaim that position.”

The newly ratified Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement offers excellent growth opportunities for both U.S. pork and beef, but U.S. exporters are especially anxious to gain relief from Korea’s 40 percent tariff on beef, which will be phased out over the next 15 years.

Other beef export highlights in 2011 include a record performance in the Middle East, where volume grew 30 percent to 386 million pounds and value was up 36 percent to $355.9 million. Russia also set new records for volume (160 million pounds, up 27 percent) and value ($255.9 million, up 68 percent), with a higher tariff rate quota for muscle cuts offering strong prospects for further growth in 2012. Last year’s quota was 91 million pounds, but Russia has increased it to 132 million pounds this year. U.S. beef is still not eligible for export to China, but new records were set in Hong Kong of 111 million pounds (up 28 percent) valued at $237 million (up 50 percent) and Vietnam $192 million (up 17 percent, though volume of 98 million pounds trailed the 2009 record). Led by a strong performance in Peru and Guatemala and exceptional growth in Chile, beef exports to Central and South America grew to record levels of 56 million pounds (up 53 percent) valued at $85.5 million (up 83 percent). U.S. beef will also be gaining significant tariff relief in Panama and Colombia this year as a result of the aforementioned trade agreements.

Complete 2011 export statistics for U.S. pork, beef and lamb are now available online.

Click here for more information about your checkoff investment in foreign marketing programs.



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The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.
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