U.S. beef export values set new records during 2012, and the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) anticipates eclipsing that total this year.

The value of beef exports for 2012 rose 2 percent to a record-high $5.51 billion on 12 percent lower volume (1.13 million metric tons). The per-head export value for beef hit $216.73 during 2012, a $10.36 increase over 2011. Contributing to that was a new monthly record value of $242.65 set in December.

For the year, U.S. beef exports accounted for 12.7 percent of total beef production and 9.8 percent of muscle-cut production. This compares to 14.2 percent and 11 percent, respectively, in 2011. The achievement was more significant in light of challenging export conditions that included non-science-based trade barriers in several key markets and an anemic economy in certain regions.

“The export markets are a critical profit center for the industry at a time when the industry is challenged by high input costs and, on the beef side, a historically low herd size,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “2012 saw record highs for per-head export values for both pork and beef at a time when those returns were sorely needed by producers.”

2013 U.S. export forecast
The outlook for 2013 appears positive for both beef and pork, according to Seng.

“There are many factors that go into projecting 12 months into the future, but as we continue to focus our efforts on markets that offer the greatest potential for growth, we are optimistic that 2013 will give us the opportunity to maintain the momentum we have seen in pork exports while rebounding in beef,” he said. The recent opening of Japan to U.S. beef under 30 months of age contributes to a projected growth in beef exports of 4 percent in volume (to 1.17 million metric tons) valued at more than $6 billion.

Ag trade outlook
The USDA’s Trade Outlook report, released Feb. 21, projects U.S. exports of agricultural products for fiscal year 2013 up $6.2 billion from FY2012. The report raises the forecast for FY2013 livestock, poultry and dairy products by $300 million to a record $30.1 billion, with gains in poultry and beef outweighing reductions in pork.

According to the report, the world economy grew 2.4 percent in 2012, below the 2.9 percent rate of 2011. As  a result, trade growth in 2012 dropped to 2 percent from 7 percent in 2011. However, USDA projects world trade growth to pick up again, to 5 percent, during 2013 based on economic growth in Asian and Latin American countries. The U.S. dollar appreciated 0.5 percent during 2012, but the report projects the dollar will depreciate 1 to 2 percent during FY2013, providing additional stimulus for agricultural trade.