USMEF: Beef export value higher than a year ago, led by strong variety meat results


Beef exports in January were slightly below last year’s volume, export value trended significantly higher, according to data released by USDA and compiled by USMEF.

Posted on Mar 12 ,00:25

USMEF: Beef export value higher than a year ago, led by strong variety meat results

January beef exports totaled 99,764 mt, down 1% from a year ago. But export value climbed 9% to $763.8 million, as value trended higher year-over-year to South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Central America, the Caribbean and Hong Kong.

"While USMEF expects 2024 to be another challenging year in terms of beef supply availability, the upward trend in export value is a positive sign", said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. "The inventory has been cleared and customers in Asia are reloading on U.S. beef. There is also more optimism in Asia’s foodservice sector, especially in Korea. Combined with the recent strength we’ve seen in the Western Hemisphere, this bodes well for beef demand in the coming year. January was also an excellent month for beef variety meat exports, which are especially important for maximizing the value of every animal". 

While January beef exports to South Korea declined slightly from a year ago (18,789 mt, down 1%), export value increased 13% to $170.5 million. Rising consumer prices continue to weigh on Koreans’ spending power, including sharply higher prices for fruits and vegetables due to crop issues.

The cost of dining out in Korea rose 3.8% in February, but this was actually the smallest year-over-year increase in more than two years. Although trading below a year ago, the Korean won has been relatively steady and is nowhere near the challenge of the weak Japanese yen.

Beef exports to Mexico continued to strengthen in January, increasing 15% from a year ago to 20,111 mt – the second largest since 2020 following exports of 21,325 mt in December 2023. January export value jumped 19% to $112.9 million. This was the highest value since 2020. Beef supplies remain tight in Mexico as it exports more feeder cattle to the U.S., imports more beef from the U.S. and exports less beef to the U.S.

U.S. beef exports to the Middle East struggled mightily in 2023 primarily due to a slowdown in beef liver shipments to Egypt, but have showed signs of a rebound the past two months. January exports jumped 68% compared to the low year-ago totals, reaching 4,869 mt, while value increased 73% to $19 million. Exports to Egypt, the largest destination for U.S. beef livers, increased 58% to 3,627 mt valued at $5.5 million (up 33%). Exports also increased significantly to the United Arab Emirates (468 mt,  up 105%), Kuwait (296 mt,  up 658%) and Qatar (265 mt, up 597%), nearly all of which were beef muscle cuts. January exports to both Kuwait and Qatar were the highest since 2022. 

Other January results for U.S. beef exports include:

  • January beef shipments to Japan declined 6% from a year ago to 21,149 mt, but export value increased 6% to $153.8 million. Beef variety meats (primarily tongues and skirts) were definitely a bright spot, with exports increasing 33% to 3,721 mt, while value climbed 40% to $39 million. Demand from yakiniku restaurants remains strong and it is not possible for them to replace U.S. beef tongue and skirt. Lower tariffs on beef variety meats (under the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement) also contributed to relatively stronger demand for these items.
  • Hong Kong’s demand for U.S. beef strengthened last year and exports performed well in January, climbing 62% from a year ago to 2,715 mt, while value soared 93% to $32.3 million. Exports to China did not fare as well, declining 12% in volume (11,755 mt) and 6% in value ($102.1 million). The combined result for the region was a 3% decline in volume to 14,490 mt, while value increased 7% to $134.4 million.
  • Following a record performance in 2023, January beef exports to Central America increased 9% from a year ago to 1,950 mt, while value was up 2% to $12.7 million. Exports to top market Guatemala were the sixth highest on record at 900 mt, up 30% year-over-year, valued at $6.5 million (up 20%). Exports to Panama more than doubled year-over-year, climbing 126% to 337 mt, valued at $2.4 million (up 91%).  Exports to El Salvador were also significantly higher at 211 mt, up 80% year-over-year.
  • January exports to Peru, a key destination for U.S. beef variety meat, nearly doubled from a year ago in volume (601 mt, up 99%) and more than doubled in value ($2.7 million, up 107%). Variety meats accounted for 77% of the volume and 41% of the value.
  • Despite lower shipments to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, January beef exports to the Caribbean were up 15% from a year ago to 2,684 mt, valued at $20.8 million (up 6%). Growth was led by smaller destinations, including the Leeward-Windward Islands, the Netherlands Antilles, Cuba and Haiti.
  • January exports of U.S. beef variety meat increased 12% from a year ago to 23,138 mt, while value climbed 16% to $89 million. In addition to growth in Japan, Egypt and Peru (see above), variety meat shipments increased significantly to Mexico, China/Hong Kong, Korea and El Salvador.
  • Beef export value equated to $360.18 per head of fed slaughter in January, up 9% from a year ago. Exports accounted for 12.8% of total January beef production, down slightly from a year ago, and 10.5% for muscle cuts (down from 10.8%).

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