Beef exports finished the year at 1.287 million metric tons (mt) valued at $5.42 billion. This broke the 2003 volume record of 1.274 million mt and easily surpassed the 2010 value record of $4.08 billion. Export volume was 21% larger than in 2010, with value up 33%.

Pork exports totaled 2.255 million mt valued at $6.11 billion, breaking the previous volume record of 2.052 million mt and shattering the value record of $4.88 billion, which were both established in 2008. Year over year, pork exports were up 18% in volume and 28% in value.

Lamb exports totaled 18,343 mt valued at $30.08 million. This topped the previous record performance of 2006, when exports totaled 13,934 mt valued at $27.8 million. Compared to 2010, lamb export volume was up 72% and value increased 46%.

“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,” says Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “U.S. producers have provided superior products to market and made solid investments in the international markets – not only from pork, beef and lamb checkoff programs, but also from the corn and soybean checkoffs. 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 U.S. meat worldwide, they are to be commended for their foresight and commitment to global marketing.”

While the record-breaking performance of 2011 is impressive, Seng feels strongly that USMEF and its industry partners have laid the groundwork for even greater success in the future.

“Demand for U.S. red meat has never been stronger, and we are well-positioned to build on this success,” he says. “We have the marketing tools in place to showcase the quality and consistency of U.S. products, which our industry is able to deliver at a very competitive price and end users are able to utilize in extremely creative and innovative ways. Real opportunities exist for further growth, and USMEF fully intends to capitalize on this strong momentum.”

Beef export value more than $206/head of fed slaughter.

Beef export value/fed steer and heifer slaughtered was a record $206.37 in 2011, which was more than one-third higher than a year ago ($153.09). Beef exports equated to 14% of total production when including both muscle cuts and variety meat. For muscle cuts only, exports totaled 11% of total production. In 2010, these ratios were 11.7% and 9%, respectively.

“We have greatly diversified our beef export destinations and by doing so we have eclipsed the level of exports we had prior to BSE,” Seng says. “By building new markets and steadily reclaiming the market share we lost in Asia due to BSE, we were able to approach the $5.5 billion mark in 2011 – that’s one-third higher than the 2010 record, and a very significant achievement for the U.S. 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.”

In December, beef exports exceeded year-ago totals by about 6% in volume (108,691 mt) and 17 % in value ($476.2 million) – posting the highest monthly volume total since September and the highest value total since August.

Canada was the leading value market for U.S. beef in 2011, reaching $1.03 billion – a 41% increase over 2010. Volume to Canada was up 25% to 191,047 mt. Mexico was the volume pacesetter at 256,938 mt (up 4% from 2010), with export value totaling $985.3 million (up 20%).

Exports to Japan surged 27% in volume (158,646 mt) and 37% in value ($874.4 million), while exports to Korea grew by 37% in volume (154,019 mt) and about one-third in value ($686 million), as the U.S. took significant market share from Australia.

“Programs such as ‘We Care’ in Japan and ‘To Trust’ in Korea have been very successful in rebuilding consumer confidence and positioning U.S. beef for success in these markets,” Seng said. “Safety continues to be a significant concern for our customers in both countries, but we are reaching a point at which we can focus more on the quality and enjoyment of the U.S. product. 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.”
The newly ratified Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement offers excellent growth opportunities for both U.S. pork and beef, but U.S. exporters are especially anxious to gain relief from Korea’s 40% tariff on beef, which will be phased out over the next 15 years.

Other beef export highlights in 2011 include a record performance in the Middle East, where volume grew 30% to 175,181 mt and value was up 36% to $355.9 million. Russia also set new records for volume (72,797 mt, up 27%) and value ($255.9 million, up 68%), with a higher tariff rate quota for muscle cuts offering strong prospects for further growth in 2012.

Last year’s quota was 41,700 mt, but Russia has increased it to 60,000 mt this year. U.S. beef is still not eligible for export to China, but new records were set in Hong Kong of 50,705 mt (up 28%) valued at $237 million (up 50%) and Vietnam at $192 million (up 19%, though volume of 44,643 trailed the 2009 record). Led by a strong performance in Peru and Guatemala and exceptional growth in Chile, beef exports to Central and South America grew to record levels of 25,823 mt (up 53%) valued at $85.5 million (up 83%). U.S. beef will also be gaining significant tariff relief in Panama and Colombia this year as a result of the aforementioned trade agreements.

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