Exports of beef and veal products from the United States were significantly higher during the first half of 2007. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, exports of beef and veal products increased 16.2 percent during the first six months of this year compared to the first six months of 2006.

In dollars, exports of beef and beef products totaled $2.15 billion the first six months of this year, an increase of 18 percent over the previous year.

Imports of beef and veal products to the United States over the same period were just slightly higher, about 1.3 percent. In dollars, imports of beef and beef products into the United States totaled $2.67 billion, an increase of 7 percent over first-half 2006.

For perspective, however, the bulk of U.S. imports are live cattle from Mexico and Canada. During the first half of this year the United States imported 1.147 million cattle from Mexico and Canada, representing a value of $830 million. Therefore, about 31 percent of the dollar value of imports to the United States was live cattle. The total number of live cattle coming into the United States, however, was down 2.7 percent during the first half of this year.

Japan represents the most significant gain in U.S. beef exports, with a 625 percent increase during the first half of the year. While that gain is substantial, exports to Japan are still well below the value of 2003, before the first BSE case was discovered. In 2003, beef exports to Japan totaled nearly 376,000 metric tons, with a value of $1.4 billion. Exports to Japan represented 36 percent of the $3.86 billion total U.S. beef exports in 2003.

Feeder cattle imports to the United States have seen a decline during 2007. The strength of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar makes Canadian feeder cattle more expensive, which has hurt demand on the U.S. side of the border. The weaker dollar has also discouraged Mexican feeder cattle imports, but higher retail prices for beef in Mexico have also encouraged those cattle to stay home.