USMEF looks to have a strong finish to the year
Pork exports are running high this year for US pork producers but beef is expected to regain its position in the global market at the end of the year, concluded USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom at the end of the USMEF Strategic Planning Conference, an event that was held virtually due to the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Halstrom noted that US pork exports are on a record pace, while beef exports have trended lower but are poised for a strong finish to the year. Halstrom underlined that the recovery of foodservice activity in most key Asian markets is providing momentum for US beef, with demand bolstered further by tightening supplies from Australia. He added that while pork exports to China have begun to cool from the unprecedented levels seen earlier this year, China’s demand will remain strong in 2021 and US pork is well-positioned for growth in Japan, Mexico, Southeast Asia and Central and South America.
Keynote speaker Anja Manuel, a former diplomat, author and leading advisor on emerging markets cited recent experience with pandemics as one of the reasons many Asian countries have recovered more rapidly from COVID-19 compared to the US, Europe and Latin America.
“They have the experience of SARS and MERS, so they’ve been through a pandemic before,” Manuel said. “Their health systems are nationalized, so it’s easier than here to get everybody on the same page. They’re going to come back faster economically than the rest of us.”
Manuel said US beef and pork have a great opportunity for further growth in China if trade tensions on non-agricultural issues don’t interfere.
“We need to find a way where we’re honest about our differences – where we push back on the Chinese when they’re crossing the line, or we actually cooperate,” she said. “And I think one of those areas is agricultural exports. It’s really a sign of elegance and status in China to serve high-quality beef, pork, everything. [China’s middle class] wants things to be safe and natural and clean, and U.S. meat has all of those attributes. So, I think the market is there for you if the governments don’t get in each other’s way.”
During the event, USMEF elected a new chair in the person of Pat Binger, who leads international meat sales for Cargill Protein North America. Based in Wichita, Kansas, Binger has been in the red meat industry for 33 years, including 17 years directing Cargill Protein’s overseas network of offices. He succeeds Idaho cattle feeder Cevin Jones, who chaired the organization for the past year.
“While working in sales for another Cargill subsidiary, I was asked if I was interested in assuming responsibility for a small export business we had at that time,” Binger said. “Although I didn’t have any export experience, I said, ‘Absolutely!’ Shortly thereafter, I took a three-week trip to eight countries, traveling throughout Asia, meeting customers and gaining market exposure. I returned from that trip really excited about international business and the global red meat trade, and it’s been a passion of mine ever since.”
Despite facing trade barriers and an uncertain economic climate in many key regions of the world, Binger sees excellent prospects for further expansion of US red meat’s global footprint.
“From a carcass utilization standpoint, we need to continue to find ways to expand our export product mix – that’s a big opportunity going forward,” he said. “Additionally, there are items today that our industry is not getting boxed, either due to lack of labor or a combination of labor and complexity, and that’s another opportunity that we need to manage through. But all in all, I am very optimistic about the US red meat industry’s ability to take on challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead. I remain excited and highly encouraged about the future of our industry.”
Mark Swanson, chief executive officer of Colorado-based Birko Corporation, is USMEF’s new chair-elect. Dean Meyer, a corn, soybean and livestock producer from Rock Rapids, Iowa, will serve as vice-chair. The newest member of the USMEF officer team is Secretary-Treasurer Randy Spronk of Edgerton, Minnesota. A past president of the National Pork Producers Council and the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, Spronk also served as chair of USMEF’s Pork and Allied Industries Committee and represented the pork-producing and feeding sector on the USMEF Executive Committee. He serves on the board of directors of Wholestone Farms and is president and managing partner for Spronk Brothers Holding, which includes operations that produce pork and feed grains, along with feed milling and delivery.
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