U.S. beef imports through June were 19 percent higher than year-earlier levels. Imports were stronger from Australia, Brazil, Uruguay, and Mexico thus far in 2012, but U.S. imports from Australia have posted the largest gains at 76 percent higher year over year. Although imports last year from Australia were tightly constrained, Australia is historically one of the largest exporters of beef to the United States. This year, 28 percent of total beef imports came from Australia, compared with 19 percent over the same time period last year. Imports from Mexico and Uruguay were 42 and 49 percent higher, respectively, year over year. Imports of beef from Mexico have steadily trended upward over the past several years and months, as this market continues to direct product for export. Imports from Uruguay are higher after several consecutive years of decline. Total U.S. beef imports for 2012 are forecast at 2.46 billion pounds, or 19 percent higher than year-earlier levels. Growth in import levels is expected to continue into next year with imports forecast at 2.62 billion pounds.
U.S. beef exports have been somewhat constrained through this year. Largely hampered by a stronger U.S. dollar, export levels through June have been 11percent lower year over year. The top four U.S. beef export markets—Japan, South Korea, Mexico, and Canada— have all posted declines in U.S. beef imports, but declines through June have been the strongest from South Korea ( down 27 percent) followed by Mexico ( down 17 percent), and then Canada ( down 10 percent) and Japan ( down 4 percent). Lower import levels are forecast through the remainder of 2012. Third and fourth quarter exports are forecast 13 and 8 percent lower, respectively, and total exports for 2012 are expected to be 11 percent lower at 2.48 billion pounds.