U.S. beef exports in 2017 are up 10 percent in volume, and pork exports are up 9 percent, the U.S. Meat Export Federation reported at its strategic planning meeting this week in Tucson, Ariz.
During a media phone conference USMEF CEO Philip Seng said the organization is “very pleased” with what’s it’s been able to accomplish this year.
“It’s very clear that the international marketplace and the international component to the industry is actually pulling its weight because our exports are growing at least double to almost three times faster than our production,” he said.
The export component continues to be a profitable center for the industry, he said.
U.S. beef exports are up 23 percent to Japan, 8 percent to South Korea, 15 percent to Hong Kong and China, 75 percent to the ASEAN region, 21 percent to South America and 95 percent to Africa. The ASEAN region includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Pork exports are up 18 percent to Mexico, 27 percent to South Korea, 96 percent to South America and 22 percent to the ASEAN region.
USMEF’s key strategies focus on maximizing the value of the carcass by putting the right cut in the right market, and that strategy is proving particularly successful in emerging markets, said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president.
U.S. meat exports have seen tremendous growth in South America and fast-paced growth in Africa, he said.
But there have been challenges as well, including Japan increasing its duty on U.S. frozen beef this summer from 38.5 to 50 percent, Seng said.
Increasing imports triggered a decades-old safeguard measure meant to protect Japan’s domestic producers. Increased tariffs apply to all exporting countries that don’t have an economic partnership agreement with Japan.
The increased duty speaks to a bigger issue for USMEF, he said.
As a result of leaving the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the U.S. is left at a disadvantage because Australia has an economic partnership with Japan. Duties on Australian beef are 27.2 percent, and Australian beef is protected from the safeguard trigger.
While U.S. beef exports to Japan are up overall this year, the higher tariffs had an immediate impact on frozen exports, which decreased 26 percent in August.
There are more than 300 initialed free trade and economic partnership agreements around the world that competitors to the U.S. are working to complete. As the U.S. talks about pulling out of trade deals, officials need to consider how that puts exports at a disadvantage, he said.
“The only bad trade agreement is the one you’re not in,” he said.
High on USMEF’s lists of concerns are trade access, trade policy and the U.S. trade agenda, he said.
Those are issues “we’re watching very closely, especially in these times,” he said.
The most imminent is the NAFTA negotiations. NAFTA has been a “beautiful arrangement” for the U.S. red meat industry. From 1994 through 2016, the U.S. exported $32 billion of beef and $32 billion of pork under NAFTA, he said.
“Leaving NAFTA would be a mistake, and I think even threatening to leave NAFTA is basically a mistake,” he said.
Trade agreements and trade relations go beyond values and volumes. When the U.S. had its first mad cow case in December 2003, 72 countries closed their doors to U.S. beef overnight. Canada reopened its door a month later to beef from cattle 30 months of age and younger, and Mexico did the same that March, he said.
“This was very central to the viability of the U.S. beef industry and to some degree the survivability of the U.S. beef industry at the time,” he said.