U.S. beef exports were below year-ago levels in December and posted the first full-year value decline since 2009, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), contractor to the beef checkoff.

December U.S. beef exports totaled 208.5 million pounds, down 6 percent from a year ago and slightly lower than in November, while export value fell 21 percent to $507.3 million. In 2015, beef exports were down 11 percent from a year ago in volume to 2.36 billion pounds. Export value was $6.3 billion, 12 percent below the 2014 record of $7.14 billion.

Beef exports accounted for 13 percent of total 2015 production and 10 percent for muscle cuts only – each down one percentage point from a year ago. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $277.87, down 7 percent from the previous year’s record but still up 13 percent from 2013.

“There is no question that 2015 was a challenging year for red meat exports, with several economic headwinds taking a toll,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “But with production increasing in the year ahead in the beef industry, we cannot afford to dwell on these circumstances or back away from our commitment to the international markets. We must continue to find innovative ways to differentiate U.S. products, win back market share and regain momentum for exports in 2016. That means aggressive pursuit of new customers and new opportunities, in both emerging and established markets.”

Korea, Taiwan, Caribbean main bright spots for 2015 beef exports

Fueled by strong demand for chilled U.S. beef in its retail and foodservice sectors, beef exports to South Korea increased 7 percent year-over-year in volume (277.9 million pounds) while slipping 4 percent in value ($810.4 million). Korea’s imports of chilled U.S. beef were up about 40 percent in 2015, with U.S. market share reaching 31 percent.

Beef exports to Taiwan increased 4 percent year-over-year in volume to 77.8 million pounds and set a new value record of $318.5 million (up 8 percent). U.S. chilled beef market share in Taiwan is more than 60 percent, the highest of any Asian destination.

Exports to the Caribbean increased 1 percent year-over-year in volume (51.2 million pounds) and 7 percent in value ($165.7 million) in 2015. Similar to pork, the value increase was driven in large part by strong demand in the Dominican Republic ($58.7 million, up 6 percent), but double-digit increases were also achieved in the Bahamas ($24.6 million, up 11 percent) and Jamaica ($16.5 million, up 10 percent).

While Japan remained the leading value market for U.S. beef in 2015, exports declined 15 percent year-over-year in volume (451.8 million pounds) and 19 percent in value ($1.28 billion, the lowest since 2012). Japan imported less beef from all suppliers in 2015, but the U.S. lost market share to Australia, due in part to the 10 percentage point tariff advantage enjoyed by Australian beef under its economic partnership agreement with Japan.

While the weak peso affected demand for U.S. beef in Mexico, exports still topped the $1 billion mark for the second consecutive year ($1.09 billion, down 6 percent). Mexico reclaimed its position as the leading destination for beef variety meat exports, which increased 8 percent in volume (242.7 million pounds) and 9 percent in value ($290.3 million). This helped offset a decline in variety meat exports to Egypt, which fell 15 percent in volume (227.7 million pounds) but still achieved a 3 percent increase in value ($148.6 million).

Complete 2015 export totals are available from USMEF’s statistics webpage.

For more information, please contact Joe Schuele at jschuele@usmef.org or 303-226-7309. For more information about your beef checkoff investment, visit MyBeefCheckoff.com.