U.S. net beef exports grow

The U.S.’s net beef exports have grown appreciably in the last few months. Net exports (beef exports minus imports) grew to 72.3 million pounds in July 2013. Cattle cowFigure 1 illustrates this as the converse: net imports (beef imports minus beef exports). As shown, net beef imports have been lower than last year on a monthly basis from May through July 2013 (the most recent month for which data are available). From January through July 2013, the U.S. exported 42 million more pounds of beef than it imported. During the same seven months in 2012, the U.S. imported 30 million more pounds of beef than it exported.

Net beef exports can grow through increased exports, lower imports, or a combination of both. In the last few months, it has been both higher exports and lower imports contributing to the increase in net beef exports. In July, U.S. beef and veal exports totaled 264.6 million pounds, 14.7% more than in July 2012 and 32% than the previous 5-year average for July. Exports to Japan, which totaled 80.5 million pounds in July, have led the increase in U.S. beef exports since the BSE-related export restriction was changed from <20 months to <30 months. In fact, July’s exports to Japan were the highest since October 2003, two months prior to the original ban Japan placed on U.S. beef imports following the BSE case in December 2003. Beef exports to Japan have surged since February 2013, resulting in a 52% increase for the first seven months of the year.

Amongst the other large U.S. beef export customers, exports to Canada and Mexico both increased in July 2013 relative to a year ago. Canada imported 15% more beef from the U.S. while Mexico imported 32% more U.S. beef. For both countries, increased imports of U.S. beef have likely resulted from smaller domestic beef supplies following liquidation of their cattle herds in the last couple of years. Exports to South Korea (historically one of the top four buyers of U.S. beef) have not faired as well in 2013. In July 2013, the U.S. exported 27% less beef to South Korea than in July 2012 and exports to the country have averaged 26% lower for the first seven months of 2013. Exports to other Asian countries have improved, though, in 2013. In particular, beef exports to Taiwan and Hong Kong have increased by 166% and 70%, respectively, for the January-July period. Many of these exports are believed to reach China, a potentially large-growth market for beef.

As indicated above, the U.S. has imported less beef in 2013. Although July 2013 U.S. beef imports were on pace with July 2012, imports from January to July were down 2%. Of interest in the July trade data are changes in the countries supplying beef to the U.S. Beef imports from Canada and Mexico were down 4% and 1%, respectively, again reflecting smaller beef supplies in those countries after liquidation of their cattle herds. Imports were also 16% lower from New Zealand, which had emerged as a large supplier of beef to the U.S. earlier in 2013 following drought in that country that caused increase slaughter of its cattle herd. In July 2013, the U.S. imported more beef from South America. Imports from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay increased 81%, 16%, and 18%, respectively, compared to July 2012.

In last Thursday’s World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, USDA forecasted 2013 annual U.S. beef imports and exports to be 2.298 million and 2.408 million pounds, respectively. If realized, that would make the U.S. a net exporter of beef for the fourth consecutive year. USDA forecasts beef imports in 2014 will be 2.64 million pounds and beef exports next year to be 2.30 million pounds, which would result in the U.S. being a net importer of beef on a volume basis, which is not uncommon by historical standards. The lower export forecasts are predicated on declining cattle numbers and beef supplies in the U.S. However, growing demand from other countries, particularly China, may divert beef exported from other countries away from the U.S. in coming years, which would effectively lower U.S. beef imports.

Source: Darrell Mark

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