At $6.49 billion, the value of 2014 beef exports through November is up 16% from 2013 and has eclipsed the previous annual total, as the 11-month volume rose 2% to 1.1 million tonnes.
USDA figures show that pork exports also were up 2% at 1.99 million tonnes with a value of $6.13 billion, up 11% from a year ago. The value of pork exports also is above 2013’s total volume and is on track to surpass 2012’s record.
November beef exports actually were down 5% from a year ago at 96,348 tonnes. November pork exports were down 13% at 168,062 tonnes with a value of $519.9 million, a 6% decline.
US MEAT EXPORTS FACE UPHILL BATTLE
However, US Meat Export Federation President and CEO Philip Seng said in a release that US meat exports face an uphill battle going forward from reduced slaughter, reduced currency values and market access issues.
“Demand for US beef and pork remains strong, as international buyers appreciate the unmatched quality and consistency of our products,” Seng said. “But lower slaughter numbers reduced 2014 supplies, which obviously had an impact on prices, and in recent months buying power in many key markets has been affected by slowing economic growth and weaker currencies.
“Market access restrictions in several important markets, including China and Russia, also had a big impact on opportunities for US exports last year,” he said. “The outlook for 2015 is for more of the same.”
KEY MARKETS REMAIN KEY
Key US meat export markets continued to be valuable in 2014, USDA data said, although they were bending in November to market pressures.
November beef exports to Japan, for instance, were the smallest since March at 18,449 tonnes, reflecting a seasonal slowdown, but the value was up 35% at $136.5 million. January-November exports were up 3% at 225,328 tonnes with a value of $1.47 billion, up 13%.
For November, Mexico was the largest importer of US beef at 18,970 tonnes, but the value of the products imported from the US was only $87.989 million, for a fourth-place finish.
For the year, however, Mexico’s US beef imports were up 14% to 219,712 tonnes with a value of $1.05 billion, up 28%.
Hong Kong also continues to be an important beef destination. While November exports to this market were down 6.27% to 14,233 tonnes from 15,185 tonnes a year ago, the value rose 16.9% to $114.709 million from $98,112.
TRADERS WORRY ABOUT EXCHANGE RATES
Going forward, some sources worry that a rising US Dollar will stifle all US exports. Sagging economies and weak local currencies could make US meats too expensive to import.
The US Dollar Index, a measure of the value of the Greenback against a basket of foreign currencies, remains near 12-year highs and has been growing since August. Investors have been fleeing other currencies and even other stock and commodity markets as confidence in the other investments paled in comparison with the US economy and its currency.
The Dollar strengthened Thursday after the US Labor Department Thursday reported that new jobless claims fell by 4,000 to 294,000 last week, slightly above expectations of 290,000. The report boosted ideas that non-farm payrolls today would show similar gains in employment.
Cattle sources say they are skeptical that the US can match 2014 export figures with the expected declines in slaughter and the rising US currency, even though foreign demand for the US’ high-quality product appears to be rising, or at least holding steady.