Record year for US exports

By Melodie Michel

- Last updated on GMT

Record year for US exports
US red meat exports reached record levels in 2011, with a value of over $11.5bn for beef, pork and lamb combined.

Statistics released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that pork, beef and lamb exports all went up both in volume and in value. US Meat Exports Federation (USMEF) president and CEO Philip Seng said: “It is extremely gratifying to see all red meat exports reaching new heights, even with the various trade obstacles we still face across the world.

“US producers have provided superior products to market and made solid investments in the international markets. Along with the experienced staff we have in place in the foreign markets, our trade officials, who continue to work for greater market access, and the exporters and traders who work every day to grow the presence of US meat worldwide are to be commended for their foresight and commitment to global marketing.”

Pork exports went up 18% in volume and 28% in value in 2011, reaching 27.5% of total production, compared to 23.7% in 2010. With a total value of $6.11bn, they broke the 2008 record of $4.88bn, helped by a 27% increase in value per head slaughtered to $55.55.

Seng added: “Among the factors driving the success of US pork exports are the chilled programs and value-added programs that USMEF has implemented in several key markets, especially in north Asia.”

These results were driven by strong growth in Japan and Mexico, up 19% and 6% in value respectively, with Mexico becoming the only market other than Japan to import more than $1bn-worth of US pork a year. According to Seng, this success is due to the country’s efficient export strategies to penetrate the retail and foodservice sectors in these regions.

Beef exports back to pre-BSE levels

Beef exports reached $5.42m in 2011, up 33% from last year. Volumes totalled 1.287m tonnes, or 14% of production, surpassing pre-Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) levels. “We have greatly diversified our beef export destinations and, by doing so, we have eclipsed the level of exports we had prior to BSE,” ​said Seng.

“By building new markets and steadily reclaiming the market share we lost in Asia due to BSE, we were able to approach the $5.5bn mark in 2011 – that’s one-third higher than the 2010 record, and a very significant achievement for the US beef industry. This outstanding performance in the international markets is exactly the catalyst we need to grow our cattle numbers. Nothing helps grow operations like a boost in profitability, and the success we are achieving is definitely contributing to producers’ bottom line.”

Canada was the biggest market for US beef in 2011, with export value up 41% from last year, reaching $1.03bn. Exports to Japan also performed strongly with a 27% increase in volume and 37% in value. Seng added that marketing programmes in Japan and South Korea had helped consumers appreciate the quality of US beef. “That is what made us the number one supplier in these markets prior to 2003, and through effective marketing it will be the driving factor that allows us to reclaim that position,”​ he said.

USMEF pointed out that the recently approved Korea-US Free Trade Agreement would provide opportunities for more growth in Asian markets in the future. The year was also marked by a record performance in the Middle East (up 30% in volume and 36% in value).

Lamb exports were driven by strong demand from Mexico, increasing 14% in volume and 21% in value over the year 2011, despite a 10% drop in value in the first quarter. Seng stressed the fact that despite being small in size, the US lamb industry had a lot of potential on global markets.

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