Beef checkoff dollars continue to be invested in foreign marketing activities to build global demand for beef and maintain beef’s positive image. And although the export train has had a steeper hill to climb and export volume has slowed as compared to this time last year, the United States is still four percent above last year’s record value, and export value for every fed steer and heifer slaughter remains above $200.
“Demand for U.S. beef remains very strong across the globe,” says Wesley Grau, chairman of the Cattleman’s Beef Board and cow/calf producer from Grady, N.M. “This has been achieved despite limited access to Japan, no access to mainland China and some ongoing market access issues in Taiwan and Indonesia. But we must overcome these current obstacles in order to maintain exports beyond our current level. All-in-all, the foreign marketing landscape is very encouraging for U.S. producers and the return we see has been great.”
Fiscal year 2011 boasted record export numbers in both volume and value and the U.S. will be very challenged to repeat that performance.
Here are some brief highlights for export markets for the remainder of the year:
Japan – The U.S. is anticipating new market access in Japan. In the wake of last year's earthquake and tsunami disasters that crippled a nuclear power plant, Japanese consumers still have concerns over the safety of domestic food products.
Korea -- Although the BSE episode created relatively little consumption impact in most of the Asian countries, in Korea it’s been quite significant. U.S. beef sales in Korea were slow in the first quarter of 2012 , and weakened further after the BSE announcement. Korea's beef herd expansion in recent years has also far outpaced demand for domestic beef, prompting the government to engage in a buyout to cull some breeding cows. This has created a surge of Korean beef coming onto the market at lower prices. Korean beef is still the most expensive in the market, but the gap between domestic and imported beef prices has narrowed significantly - making Korean beef more enticing for consumers.
Taiwan – The challenge in this market is the issue of ractopamine – there’s zero tolerance for any meat imported with traces of it. Exports in the first quarter of the year were down 18 percent but steeper declines will be seen moving forward.
China -- The U.S. beef industry looks very much forward to getting access to China. China’s beef imports as reported by their customs are going up again – they have record-high beef prices, but there’s a beef shortage in China. The beef industry needs that market and it should be a priority for the U.S.