Exports of beef muscle cuts increased 36% to 168.5 million lbs. (76,445 metric tons) the first two months of 2008 when compared to the same two-month period in 2007. Meanwhile, beef variety meat exports increased 17% to 118 million lbs. (53,529 metric tons) for a combined total of 286.5 million lbs. (129,974 metric tons) valued at $442 million, an increase of 40%, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Here are the beef export highlights for 2008:

  • Mexico continues to be the largest destination for U.S. beef products, with exports of beef plus beef variety meats up 21% to 143.9 million lbs. (65,286 metric tons) for the first two months of 2008. Exports to Mexico were about 50/50 beef and beef variety meats, with beef growing 12% while variety meat exports increased 32%.

  • Canada was again the second-largest U.S. beef export customer with a 66% increase to 46.6 million lbs. (21,151 metric tons). However, February exports dropped below 10,000 metric tons (22 million lbs.) for the first time since May 2007, totaling 9,312 metric tons or 20.5 million lbs. – still 54% larger than the February 2007 export volume.

  • Japan: Exports to Japan trended higher in February at 8.1 million lbs. (3,681 metric tons), 40% more than in February 2007 and 19% greater than January 2008. Combined January/February exports totaled 14.9 million lbs. (6,783 metric tons) valued at nearly $37 million, an increase of 25% and 43%, respectively.

  • ASEAN: February exports to the ASEAN region hit 8.4 million lbs. (3,842 metric tons), surpassing the record set in October 2007, with Vietnam as the top destination followed by the Philippines. For the January/February period, exports (primarily muscle cuts) totaled 15.5 million lbs. (7,058 metric tons), a 439% increase. Of that total, 12 million lbs. (5,464 metric tons) were bound for Vietnam and 2.9 million lbs. (1,338 metric tons) to the Philippines. USMEF has been aggressively promoting the reintroduction of bone-in U.S. beef in the Philippines and continues to educate Vietnamese importers and chefs about the benefits of U.S. beef.

  • Taiwan: Beef exports to Taiwan increased 21% to 8.5 million lbs. for the two months (3,873 metric tons). Exports in February alone were nearly 4.5 million lbs. (2,039 metric tons), 58% larger than February 2007 and 11% larger than January 2008. Export growth to Taiwan is impressive considering the 30% increase in export value (totaling $18.6 million).

  • EU: Beef exports for the two-month period were 4.8 million lbs., 329% larger than the same period last year. The Netherlands was the largest destination at 2.9 million lbs. February exports to the EU were 2.7 million lbs. (1,227 metric tons) – a total surpassed in recent years only by exports in 1998 and 2000. However, USMEF notes that U.S. exports (reported by the Department of Commerce) are significantly larger than EU imports, reported by the European Commission. For example, Department of Commerce stats for January 2008 exports show 2.1 million lbs. versus 465,170 lbs. a year ago, while EU stats show 544,536 lbs. of beef imports from the United States this January versus 94,797 lbs. a year ago.

    The EU ban on most Brazilian beef imports has resulted in record high prices for Uruguayan beef as exporters try to fill the large void left by the lack of exports from the primary supplier to the EU market. Meanwhile, Argentina, the second-largest EU beef supplier, is battling its own domestic constraints, and exports have essentially stalled as the beef export quotas/taxes are debated.

    The recent WTO ruling against the EU hormone ban will hopefully lead to expanded access for U.S. beef in the near future. “Expected shortages of beef in the EU market could make the coming months an opportune time for more U.S. beef exports to Europe,” says Erin Daley, USMEF manager of research and analysis.

  • Beef Variety Meats: Mexico remains the top export market, with a 32% increase to 71.8 million lbs. (32,598 metric tons). Exports to the Middle East dipped 13% and totaled 28.9 million lbs. (13,109 metric tons), with a 15% drop in variety meat (liver) exports to Egypt. At the same time, variety meat exports to Canada jumped 81% to 3.8 million lbs. (1,746 metric tons); 94% to Central and South America (mainly Peru, up 192% to nearly 1.6 million lbs.); 645% to the Philippines (to 1.3 million lbs.), and 42% to Russia (1.1 million lbs.).
-- USMEF release