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U.S. beef, pork exports break records

Japan led the way for U.S. beef exports in 2017 in both volume and value and was the high-value market for U.S. pork exports, while Mexico was the highest volume importer of U.S. pork.
Carol Ryan Dumas

Capital Press

Published on February 8, 2018 10:42AM

A sales person at the Jusco Supermarket in Tokyo arranges U.S. beef products. U.S. beef gained significant market share in Japan last year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Associated Press File

A sales person at the Jusco Supermarket in Tokyo arranges U.S. beef products. U.S. beef gained significant market share in Japan last year, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

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U.S. exports of beef and pork set records in 2017, with beef exceeding the mark in value and pork surpassing the pinnacle in volume, according to a new report by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Beef exports reached $7.27 billion, up 15 percent year over year and 2 percent higher than the previous record high of $7.13 billion in 2014. At 1.26 million metric tons, they increased 6 percent from 2016 and were the fourth-largest volume on record.

“This was a remarkable year for beef exports, in our mainstay markets in northern Asia as well as emerging destinations in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO, in the federation’s year-end tally.

Pork exports totaled 2.45 million metric tons, breaking the 2016 record by 6 percent. The value of those exports at $6.49 billion was up 9 percent and second only to the $6.65 billion in 2014.

“The new volume record for pork is impressive, but it’s important to note that export value increased at an even more rapid pace — which confirms that international demand is robust and that exports deliver a strong return,” Halstrom said.

U.S. beef gained significant market share in Japan, despite considerable obstacles, and posted a record-breaking performance in South Korea and Taiwan, he said.

“These markets are especially critical for chilled beef exports, which were up about 25 percent year over year. This has a tremendous impact on carcass value,” he said.

Japan solidified its position as the leading market for U.S. beef, with volume up 19 percent to 307,559 metric tons and value up 25 percent to $1.89 billion.

The results could have been even more impressive if not for the tariff rate increase on frozen beef, Erin Borror, USMEF economist, told Capital Press.

That increase was imposed last summer when rising imports of frozen beef triggered a 1994 safeguard meant to protect Japan’s domestic producers. Tariffs on U.S. exports of frozen beef to Japan increased from 38.5 percent to 50 percent and will remain until the start of the Japanese fiscal year in April.

Much of the business in the fall and winter was already contracted before the safeguard was triggered, and fortunately it was triggered at a time of booming demand for U.S. beef in China, Borror said.

“U.S. beef has not only taken market share from Australia but has also capitalized on Japan’s growing beef consumption. So Japan’s imports of both chilled and frozen U.S. beef continued to increase by double digits year over year, even after the higher tariff on frozen beef was implemented in August,” she said.

U.S. chilled beef exports to Japan were up 37 percent in value to $1.102 billion and 32 percent in volume to 148,688 metric tons.

Those exports were already accelerating at a faster pace than frozen exports before the tariff increase, she said.

Japan was also the leading value market for U.S. pork exports, increasing 4 percent in value to $1.63 billion and 2 percent in volume to 393,648 metric tons.

Strong demand for U.S. hams, however, led to the sixth consecutive volume record for U.S. pork exports to Mexico at 801,887 metric tons, up 10 percent. Those exports reached $1.51 billion, up 12 percent and the second highest on record.


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