Exports to Mexico and Canada - the top two markets for US beef in 2008 – continue to struggle due to a number of factors. Exchange rates are far less favorable than last year and the down economy – especially in Mexico – has steered consumers toward lower-priced proteins. As a result, beef exports to Mexico are down more than 20 per cent in volume and value compared to the first four months of last year.

In Canada, US beef exports have declined about 10 per cent in volume and 16 per cent in value compared to 2008. While a decline in live cattle imports from Canada to the United States might suggest an increase in domestic supply, Canada’s cattle slaughter is actually down about 2 per cent from last year. This reflects a continued contraction in the Canadian cattle herd, which may bode well for increased beef exports to Canada once more favorable economic conditions return.

The ASEAN region has been a mainstay for US beef exports this year, and April was no exception. Exports to the region increased by 72 per cent in volume and per cent in value over April 2008. Led by a surge in activity in Vietnam, exports to the ASEAN region have increased by 63 per cent in volume (to 26,030 metric tons or 57.4 million pounds) and 93 per cent in value (to $84.3 million) over January-April of last year.

Japan continues to regain strength as a destination for US beef, with April exports climbing by 10 per cent over April 2008. For the first four months of the year, beef exports to Japan have increased by about 25 per cent in both volume and value compared the same period last year, totaling 19,914 metric tons (43.9 million pounds) valued at about $106 million.