Decline in strength of dollar keeps U.S. meat affordable

By TIM HEARDEN

Capital Press

U.S. beef and pork exports continued their upward trend in February as higher percentages of American meat were sent overseas.

Beef exports that month accounted for 12.9 percent of total production, an increase from 10.6 percent of production in February 2010, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Exports for U.S. beef in February reached 89,797 metric tons valued at $371.7 million. For the first two months of 2011, the totals of 178,460 metric tons valued at $727.3 million marked increases of 24 percent and 45 percent, respectively, over 2010 levels, the USMEF noted.

Exports of American pork in February reached 172,022 metric tons valued at $434.4 million as 27 percent of pork produced here was sold outside the country, up from 25.2 percent a year ago, the federation reported.

The numbers keep rising as the dollar remains weak against other currencies, said Joe Schuele, a USMEF spokesman.

"Globally, demand is really strong, and we're in a very price-competitive situation," Schuele said. "Our trading partner currencies are fairly strong as are our competitors' currencies. We're in a situation where our beef and pork prices are pretty attainable for most of our trading partners, so that helps."

Mexico, South Korea, Canada, the Middle East and Japan were the top five beef export destinations in early 2011. South Korea boosted its purchases by 121 percent in volume and 142 percent in value over early 2010 levels, according to the USMEF.

Pork sold particularly well in Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong and China, South Korea and Canada, the organization reports. In Japan, the leading value market for U.S. pork, exports were up 19 percent in volume and 17 percent in value for the first two months of the year, to 74,498 metric tons valued at $280.3 million.

The numbers didn't reflect impacts from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, Schuele said.

"We think Japan will hold up well (for) March, but we won't know for sure until the numbers are in," he said.

The federation's Japan office is continuing with most of its scheduled programs while remaining involved in the relief effort.

The USMEF recently teamed with retail giant Aeon to hold an "American Pork Fair" and introduce Japanese consumers to Texas-style baby back ribs, North Carolina pulled pork sandwiches and Iowa chops, according to a news release.

Online

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

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