While overall trends for beef and pork exports are sluggish, positive signs are appearing in importing markets, the U.S. Meat Export Federation said last week, based on the latest USDA figures.
Market access issues continue to be top-of-mind for exporters. Russia's suspension of imports of U.S. beef and pork, which officially closed the market Feb. 11, continues to hamper overall performance.
USMEF estimates this trade impasse, which is related to Russia's enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy for beta agonist use, has cost the U.S. industry about $97 million in beef export value and $58 million in pork export value so far in 2013.
"Along with our lack of access to sell beef in mainland China, this is the biggest barrier we face in terms of market access," said Seng. "One often overlooked factor is the effect this suspension has on the price U.S. products command in markets other than Russia.
"For example, beef livers to Egypt have increased in volume, but the value is down. There is also downward pressure on the prices offered for rounds, hams and pork for further processing. The impact is much broader than many analysts realize at first glance."
April beef export volume of 86,433 metric tons was down 9% from a year ago and export value was down 7% to $434.8 million. For January through April, beef exports were 2% higher in value ($1.75 billion) despite a 5% decline in volume (343,020 mt).
Through April, beef exports equated to 9% of U.S. muscle cut production and 12% including variety meat – down from last year's ratios of 9.6% and 12.7%. Export value equated to $217.54 per head of fed slaughter, up 3% from the same period last year.