Meat Export Federation reports positive trends in world meat demand

By TIM HEARDEN

Capital Press

U.S. beef and pork exports in July slipped slightly from the previous month, but they were still well above July 2009 levels, according to government statistics.

Beef exports in July were valued at $366.3 million, down slightly from the $377.6 million posted in June, according to USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

However, the cumulative 2010 value of beef exports surged to more than $2.19 billion, 25 percent higher than last year's pace and nearly even with pre-2003 levels, noted a USMEF news release. In 2003, the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was discovered in the U.S., closing many export markets to U.S. beef.

The value of pork exports in July was $385.8 million, or 4 percent higher than last year, and it pushed the cumulative 2010 total to $2.74 million. That's 8 percent higher than in 2009 and just 1 percent off the all-time record pace of 2008, according to USMEF.

Federation spokesman Jim Herlihy wasn't concerned that month-over-month export values had slipped a bit in July.

"I think there are fluctuations that occur throughout the year as we pass certain points in the season," he said. "There are peak grilling seasons. So I think the important measure is less the month-to-month fluctuation and more how we're doing year over year. That's more of an accurate measure."

Those numbers are mostly positive. In terms of volume, the 588,030 metric tons of beef exported through July is 15 percent higher than in 2009, and the cumulative volume of pork for 2010 -- 1.1 million metric tons -- was up 2 percent from last year, the USMEF noted.

While beef exports have been surging in most major markets and showing signs of recovery in Mexico, a strong performance in the top destinations for pork -- Japan, Mexico and Canada -- has kept results ahead of 2009, the federation observed.

South Korea, Vietnam and Russia accounted for the largest year-over-year increases for U.S. beef exports in July, but strong growth has been seen in other Asian countries, the Middle East, the European Union and the Caribbean, according to the USMEF.

Meanwhile, pork sales to Mexico are outpacing their record year in 2009. The 311,206 metric tons exported, an 8 percent increase in volume, sold for $560 million, a 31 percent increase in value.

Sales to Japan have drawn even with last year's pace after a slow start this year. Pork imports in general are increasing in Japan, a sign that U.S. competitors are also stepping up their efforts, Herlihy said. For instance, other countries are opening full-time trade offices there and emulating the USMEF model, he said.

"So we need to continue to focus on those markets," he said. "The numbers are good, but when we see our competitors follow our lead, it's just a reminder we have to keep focusing on finding new niches and ensuring that we're providing the best product."

Online

U.S. Meat Export Federation: http://usmef.org

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