The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) has released its latest 2014 beef and pork export figures, based on USDA data. And with December figures yet to be calculated, the value of U.S. beef exports through November set a new annual record. The value of beef exports from January through November 2014 reached $6.49 billion, a 16 percent increase over the same period in 2013.

The volume of beef exports during November were down 5 percent from a year earlier, but on an annual basis remained 2 percent higher than those during 2013.

Through November 2014, the U.S exported about 14 percent of total beef production and 11 percent of muscle cuts, according to USMEF. During November, exports contributed $359.77 per head to the value of finished cattle, an increase of 3 percent over a year earlier. For the January through November 2014 period, the value of beef exports to producers averaged $293.96 per head, up 16 percent from the same period in 2013.

Strong export demand, resilient beef demand here the United States and ongoing short supplies of finished cattle have pushed cattle and wholesale beef prices higher in recent weeks. This week, USDA reporting the Choice cutout moving above $250 per hundredweight and fed-steer values averaging near $170 per hundredweight.

The Choice cutout on Wednesday gained $2.42 per hundredweight to average $252.75, after a $0.97 gain on Tuesday moved the average above $250. The Select cutout on Wednesday averaged $242.12 per hundredweight, leaving a Choice-Select spread of $10.63, according to the USDA’s daily National Cattle and Beef Summary. On Thursday, the Choice cutout rose another $1.82 to $254.57 per hundredweight and Select was up $3.22 to $245.34.

USDA’s Five Area Weekly Accumulated Weighted Average Cattle Price report on Wednesday showed an average live-steer price of $169.46 per hundredweight, with heifers averaging $169.74. Last week, live steers averaged $166.11 per hundredweight, up $4.06 from the previous week.

USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng says U.S. beef exports face economic challenges in leading markets in the coming year. “Demand for U.S. beef and pork remains strong, as international buyers appreciate the unmatched quality and consistency of our products,” he said. “But lower slaughter numbers reduced 2014 supplies, which obviously had an impact on prices, and in recent months buying power in many key markets has been affected by slowing economic growth and weaker currencies. Market access restrictions in several important markets, including China and Russia, also had a big impact on opportunities for U.S. exports last year. The outlook for 2015 is for more of the same, but our industry has proven its ability to identify and develop export outlets in difficult times. When I look across the world as a whole, I still see good potential for further expansion of red meat exports in 2015.”

Other key figures from USMEF include:

Other January-November beef results include:

·         Exports to Hong Kong surpassed $1 billion for the first time ($1.01 billion, up 39 percent) on volume of 137,435 mt (up 19 percent).

·         Strong momentum continued for U.S. beef in South Korea, as exports were up 14 percent in volume (107,147 mt) and 44 percent in value ($762.8 million). On a value basis, U.S. market share in Korea climbed from 38 percent in 2013 to 42 percent in 2014.

·         Exports to Taiwan rebounded from a slow start in 2014, reaching 30,984 mt (up 6 percent) valued at a record $264.8 million (up 15 percent).