April Beef Exports Drop; Still Above Average

US beef exports dropped counter-seasonally in April but still remained above last year and the previous five-year average, said the USDA’s Economic Research Service and Foreign Agricultural Service.

Data from the two services showed that total beef, veal and variety meat, exports amounted to 218.353 million pounds in April, down 15.675 million, or 6.69%, from March’s 2017 high of 234.010 million.

However, that was 29.274 million pounds, or 15.5%, above April 2016’s 189.079 million, and 14.642 million, or 7.19%, above the 2011-2015 average of 203.711 million pounds.

Interestingly, US beef and veal imports declined during the month, the USDA data showed, but the US remained a net importer of beef.  Total imports amounted to 250.474 million pounds, down 20.061 million, or 7.42%, from 270.535 million in March.

However, US beef and veal imports in April were 22.029 million pounds, or 8.08%, below last April’s 272.503 million and only 936,000 pounds, or 0.38%, above the 2011-2015 average of 249.538 million.




Leading market Japan continued to shine for US beef in April, with exports up 15% in volume and 17% in value, a US Meat Export Federation release said.  Through April, exports to Japan exceeded last year’s pace by 34% in volume and 35% in value.

Growth to Japan was driven by the surging volume of chilled US beef, with the US capturing 52% of Japan’s chilled imports, up from 39% during the first four months of 2016, the USMEF said.  US chilled beef exports through April increased 48% with a value of $320 million (up 43%), indicating widespread acceptance and a growing range of US cuts available in retail and foodservice sectors.

Beef exports to South Korea cooled in April but remained 8% above last year’s pace, with a value of $78.5 million (up 17%).  For January through April, exports to South Korea were up 19% in volume and 27% in value to $346 million.

Similar to Japan, the driver of growth to Korea was in chilled product, with exports through April up 84% and valued at $106 million (up 86%).  Korean quarantine clearance data showed this growth pattern continued through May, with the US share of the country’s chilled beef imports climbing to 53%, up from 38% in the same period last year.

The recent rebound continued for beef exports to Hong Kong, where a strong April performance pushed year-to-date exports ahead of last year’s pace, the USMEF said.  April exports were up 73% in volume and 67% in value to $66.6 million.  Through April, exports to Hong Kong were up 2% and valued at $233.9 million up 10%.




Fed cattle traded on the livestock exchange last Wednesday at an average of $132.18 per cwt on a live basis, down $0.36 from $132.54 a week earlier.  Cash trading then took place at $131.25 to $132.50, steady to down $0.75.

However, the bulk of last week’s trading took place on Thursday and Friday at $136 to $137.50 per cwt on a live basis, up $4 to $5, and at $215 to $216 on a dressed basis, up $7.

The USDA’s choice cutout Tuesday was up $2.10 per cwt at $250.45, while select was up $0.13 at $219.57.  The choice/select spread widened to $30.88 from $28.91 with 146 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Monday was $152.59 per cwt, up $0.20.  This compares with Tuesday’s Aug settlement at $155.37, down $4.50.