The general take-away from the January to September period of 2015 is that the U.S. beef exports have suffered a significant setback this year, and annual 2015 exports are expected to fall below 2014 levels by 14 percent. Overall, beef exports for the month of September were reported at 165 million pounds, nearly 25 percent below year-ago levels. Year-to-date, the United States has shipped approximately 1.7 billion pounds of beef abroad, 13 percent less than the same period in 2014.
The relative strength of the U.S. dollar to other major currencies, high U.S. beef prices, and overall tight domestic supplies remain problematic for U.S. beef exports. However, the record pace of less expensive Australian beef has also played a significant role in the global decline for U.S. beef exports by capturing a greater percentage of global market share in top trade destinations. Increasing beef availability and lower prices are expected to spur renewed interest in U.S. beef in 2016, boosting exports over 9 percent.
On the flip side, U.S. beef imports remain at historically high levels. Total beef imports for September were reported at 289 million pounds, with Australia accounting for 46 percent. Currently, Australia is more than three-quarters through its tariff-free quota for the year. While, the brisk pace of processing beef from Oceania has boosted 2015 beef imports into the U.S. to very high levels, it is expected that imports of lean processing beef from Australia and New Zealand will decline significantly during fourth quarter as the two countries seek to avoid triggering their respective over-quota tariffs. Looking ahead into 2016, overall beef imports are expected to decline by 11 percent as a result of increases in U.S. domestic supplies and decreases in the volume of processing beef shipped from Australia.