U.S. beef imports through July were 16 percent higher than a year earlier, and growth is expected to continue into next year, with third- and fourth-quarter imports in 2012 forecast at 615 and 540 million pounds, respectively. Although imports have been strong for much of 2012, growth in beef imports from Oceania slowed entering the summer months and imports from Canada have been lower year-over-year since the second quarter. Nevertheless, total beef imports for 2012 are forecast at 2.4 billion pounds, or 17 percent higher than a year earlier. The momentum in the import market is expected to continue into next year as total imports are forecast 9 percent higher year-over-year.

Momentum in the U.S. beef export market continues to be hampered largely by a relatively stronger U.S. dollar, constraining export levels through July to 12 percent below a year-ago. Excluding Vietnam and Hong Kong, export levels to the remaining top 10 export countries through July have been lower, year-over-year. Third- and fourth-quarter exports are forecast at 670 and 625 million pounds, respectively, with total 2012 export levels forecast at 2.48 billion pounds, or 11 percent below a year ago. U.S. exports in 2013 are forecast slightly lower at 2.45 billion pounds.