Growing popularity of U.S. beef in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan has resulted in higher exports this year. U.S. beef exports through the end of July are 139 million pounds higher than the same period from the previous year.

Shipments to Japan have surged this year since import restrictions were relaxed in February to allow for imports of U.S. beef from cattle aged less than 30 months. Higher trade has led the USDA to increase its total beef export forecast to 2.41 billion pounds in 2013.

Although exports through July are three percent higher than the previous year, exports are forecasted to fall 4.5 percent to 2.3 billion pounds in 2014.

Drought conditions in Mexico over the past 2 ½ years pushed a lot of cattle into the U.S., however the country’s herd liquidation rate is slowing and U.S. cattle imports are expected to decrease during the remaining months in 2013 and next year.

The USDA Economic Research Service is forecasting lower cattle import numbers for the remainder of this year and next year, reducing this year’s total to 1.9 million head. Expectations for 2014 are above the 2013 total, but lower than the previous forecast. The ERS is forecasting 2014 cattle imports to reach 1.95 million head.

Cattle imports from Canada have surpassed 600,000 head through the end of July. Higher feed costs in Canada and better feeder cattle prices in the U.S. have pushed cattle across the border.