The value of beef exports through the first 11 months of 2012 remained slightly above 2011’s record levels, despite continued lower volumes, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program.

As U.S. production declined in 2012, beef exports fell a modest 1% in value on a 13.3% drop in volume in November. Year-to-date through November, volumes were down 11% (2.3 billion lbs.) but the value of those exports was a strong $5.05 billion – still 2% above the record-setting value pace of 2011.

Exports to Canada (up 18.5% in volume and 37.8% in value), Hong Kong (up 18.8% and 62.6% in volume and value, respectively), Russia (up 19% in volume and 4% in value) and Central/South America (up 42.4% in volume and 56.3% in value; including record exports to Chile, up 119%) were the top-performing beef export markets in November. Export value to South Korea increased nearly 6% on a slight decline in volume.

Beef exports to price-sensitive markets like Mexico are down this year, but the value of exports to premium markets like Japan (up 19% for the year) and Canada (up 13%) continue to grow even as volumes remain low.

Another positive for beef exporters is the rebound of the Taiwan market, which was once a top-five U.S. beef export market but was hindered for most of 2011 by ractopamine-related barriers that have since been resolved. In November, the value of beef sales to Taiwan jumped 13.7% over last year on slightly reduced volumes. For the year through November, exports to Taiwan were down 48% in volume and 40% in value, but recent numbers are encouraging for 2013. 

Beef exports account for 12.6% of total production (9.8% for just muscle cuts) with a per-head value of $214.64, up 5% from last year. Complete export results are available online.