U.S. beef exports trended slightly lower in volume but posted excellent results in terms of value, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

February beef export volume (87,131 mt) was 3% lower than a year ago but export value remained exceptionally strong, increasing 10% to $409 million. Through the first two months of the year, beef exports totaled 176,585 mt (-2%) valued at $815 million (+12%).

February beef exports equated to 12% of production when including both muscle cuts and variety meat, and 9% for muscle cuts only. This compares to 12.9% and 10%, respectively, in February 2011. Export value equated to $208.05/head of fed slaughter, up 14% from last year’s $182.12.

Beef exports to Russia are expected to benefit from a higher muscle cut tariff rate quota (TRQ) in 2012, as the TRQ was increased from 41,700 mt in 2011 to 60,000 mt this year. January-February exports to Russia were up 58% in volume (9,297 mt) and tripled in value to $38.2 million. The pace was even hotter when including only muscle cuts, which increased 131% in volume (5,746 mt) and 238% in value ($29.9 million).

Egypt led strong results for U.S. beef in the Middle East, with exports to the region increasing 13% in volume (23,507 mt) and 19% in value ($53.3 million). Volumes were lower for the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, but both destinations still achieved substantial increases in value.

Led by strong results in Chile, Peru and Guatemala, exports to the Central and South America region increased 63% in volume (5,651 mt) and 91% in value ($21.8 million).

“Export growth in these markets is reflective of a very successful effort to expand the global footprint of U.S. beef,” Seng says. “At one time, these markets were only a small factor in our global results, and buyers were exclusively interested in variety meat. But the U.S. industry has made great strides in marketing beef muscle cuts, many of which are underutilized domestically.”

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