The U.S. Meat Export Federation reports that beef and beef variety meat exports in March increased 5 percent in volume but dipped 1 percent in value.

According to USMEF, the decrease in value was largely due to a 17 percent fall in variety meat export value, which offset a 4 percent rise in muscle-cut value. Strong performances in Vietnam, Japan and the Middle East in March helped U.S. beef overcome declines in its top two markets, Mexico (down 21 percent in volume and value) and Canada (down 13 percent in volume and 20 percent in value).

Beef exports to the ASEAN region in the first quarter jumped nearly 70 percent in volume to 19,645 metric tons and doubled in value to $64 million. Vietnam led the region, posting a 93 percent increase in volume and 146 percent spike in value.

March beef exports to Japan climbed 58 percent in volume and 53 percent in value compared with last year, prompting first-quarter increases of 32 percent and 29 percent, respectively. The monthly increase resulted partly from the availability of more cattle younger than 20 months of age.

Although beef exports to the Middle East declined a bit in the first quarter, muscle-cut exports to the region jumped 84 percent in volume and 41 percent in value. Though offset somewhat by a decline in beef liver exports to Egypt, these gains indicate the region is becoming a desirable destination for higher-value product.