According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, beef exports during November totaled 198.6 million pounds on a carcass weight basis, 3.1 percent less than a year ago. During the same period, U.S. exports of beef to Japan fell by 32.3 percent from a year earlier. Beef consumption in Japan dropped sharply last fall after the discovery of BSE in Japanese cattle.

The large reduction in exports to Japan has created problems for U.S. producers. But, according to the Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC), it now appears that much of the decline in exports to Japan was offset by a 19.7 percent year-to-year increase in beef exports to Mexico and a 64.0 percent increase in exports to Korea.

November's U.S. beef imports totaled 253.3 million pounds on a carcass weight basis, 4.7 percent above a year earlier. Meanwhile, pork exports during November exceeded the year-earlier total by 17.4 percent. Much of the increase, LMIC analysts note, comes from larger than usual pork shipments to Japan.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation is conducting a major campaign in Japan to build consumer confidence in American Beef. The possibility of an improving export picture in Mexico and Korea, coupled with a gradual restoration of the Japanese market, could be good news for U.S. producers during the coming months.