Imports of beef to the U.S. for 2010 are forecast at 2.6 billion lbs, fractionally below 2009 levels. Looking at the forecast from the second quarter, it showed imports to be at 690 million lbs — 8% below the year-earlier second-quarter total. Coupled with lower supplies in Australia, the strong Australian dollar is a factor that has continued to plague the U.S. import market for Australian beef products, which, in turn, has put downward pressure on total U.S. beef imports thus far in the year.
Imports of Australian beef through June were 40% below year-earlier levels. Australia is also a primary competitor of the U.S. in the beef export market, particularly for markets in Asia (South Korea, Japan and Taiwan), and the strong Australian dollar is an additional factor keeping U.S. export products competitive in world trade. Beef imports from New Zealand were also down 6%, and in lieu of these decreases from Oceania through June, more product is coming across the Canadian border. Imports from Canada were 14% higher, year-over-year.
The third and fourth quarters should demonstrate beef-import growth above year-earlier levels at 700 million and 640 million lbs. imported, respectively; this would equal quarterly increases of 13% and 16%, year-over-year. The increase in U.S. imports should also be synonymous with gradually increasing beef supplies in Australia toward the end of 2010, a result of herd rebuilding that began earlier this year. U.S. beef imports for 2011 are forecast to increase 7% from the 2010 total. Tighter domestic supplies and greater availability of beef in the world market should rally imports next year.