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  • Unconventional Ag

January Export Figures Highlight U.S. Beef and Pork Export Challenges

Shipping delays caused by labor disputes at U.S. west coast ports have materially damaged global buyers’ faith in the reliability of U.S. meat exports and, combined with the strong U.S. dollar, exports have fallen to a four-year low. However, data for beef and pork exports for January bring forth other factors that are challenging the U.S. meat industry.

U.S. beef exports for January totaled 79.899 million tons – a decrease of 18% in volume, as values fell by 2% to $503.57 million, and pork exports fell 16% in volume to 161,165 million tons and lost 15% in value, landing at $455.3 million.

Global competition for market share is intensifying, especially in major pork export markets, and global beef supply is expected to continue to be tight. U.S. beef exports to Mexico were unaffected, however volumes to Japan fell by 12%, and volumes to Hong Kong and South Korea fell to two year lows. Pork exports to South Korea and the Dominican Republic increased by 34% and 28% respectively, but pork exports fell to all other major destination markets including Japan.

January was the first month to see reduced beef tariffs under the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA), and further reductions in tariffs will occur in April. Meanwhile South Korea’s newly forged trade agreements with Canada and Australia have also narrowed the U.S. tariff advantage.

The loss of confidence from overseas buyers, the strong U.S. dollar, the loss of tariff advantage over overseas competitors and intense global market competition are all being labeled ‘wake up’ calls for the U.S. meat export industry.

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