U.S. beef imports for the first quarter of 2013 totaled 590 million pounds, 1.4 percent higher than a year ago. However, imports were lower, year-over-year, from two of the three historically largest beef exporters to the United States, Australia and Canada, at 6 and 25 percent below first-quarter levels a year earlier. Imports from New Zealand and Mexico were both 28 percent higher than in the same period a year ago. Despite lower first-quarter imports from Australia, imports from Oceania are expected to strengthen through the remainder of this year and through 2014. Imports of beef from Mexico are also stronger due to the Mexico's initiative to export more beef, which includes adding to Tipo Inspección Federal (TIF) plant numbers (federally inspected slaughter plants in Mexico that meet standards similar to those in the United States). U.S. beef imports for 2013 are expected to total 2.5 billion pounds, marking a 15-percent yearly increase. Beef imports for 2014 are expected to strengthen from most major trading partners as herd inventories expand further, increasing nearly 10 percent to 2.8 billion pounds.

U.S. cattle imports from Mexico decline as imports increase from Canada
U.S. cattle imports for 2013 are forecast at 2.125 million head, or 5 percent below year-earlier levels. Imports from Mexico are largely expected to tighten this year, while increased cattle numbers may come from Canada due to Canada's gradual herd-size recovery. According to AMS weekly reports, cattle imports from Mexico through May 4 were 37 percent below year-earlier levels. This dip in Mexican cattle import numbers finally comes as a reflection of inventory numbers in Mexico that have been down over the last few years. According to AMS reports, through April 27, increases in imports of Canadian feeders and slaughter cows have been substantial. Imports of feeder cattle are nearly double those of a year ago, and slaughter cattle imports are more than double a year ago. The trend of higher imports from Canada and lower imports from Mexico is expected to continue in play into next year, perhaps throughout the year. The U.S. cattle import forecast for 2014 is expected to trend lower overall through 2014, at 2 million head or 7 percent lower, year-over-year.