Pork, Beef exports weathering influenza

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

While May was expected to be the month in which U.S. pork exports were most affected by A-H1N1 influenza, the impact has not been as negative as some analysts had predicted, according to an analysis of USDA statistics by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

At the same time, U.S. beef exports for the first five months of 2009 remain roughly on par with 2008.

May pork plus pork variety meat exports totaled 143,682 metric tons valued at $342.6 million. This is down 9% in value and 9.5% in volume from April, and down a substantial 24% in value and 27% in volume compared to May 2008. But spring of 2008 was a historic high point for U.S. pork exports, and a repeat of those results was not anticipated even before A-H1N1 influenza hampered demand and led to significant market closures for U.S. pork.

Some countries either fully or partially closed to U.S. pork during May, and a few markets – including China – remain closed today. But Caspers was quick to praise the trading partners that lived up to their obligations by remaining open to U.S. pork and worked to dispel misinformation that attempted to connect pork consumption with A-H1N1 influenza.

Despite being regarded as the epicenter of the A-H1N1 outbreak and enduring a weeklong shutdown of most commercial activity in early May, Mexico performed fairly well for the month. While pork and pork variety meat exports to Mexico declined by about 15% from April, volume was still 18% higher than in May 2008, totaling 34,227 metric tons.

Japan continues to perform exceptionally well for U.S. pork, with results through the first five months of the year surpassing last year’s record pace by 4% in volume (192,050 metric tons) and 17% in value. Japan is still by far the top value destination for U.S. pork, and trails only Mexico this year in terms of volume.

Other bright spots for U.S. pork during the first five months of 2009 include Taiwan (up 75% in volume and 63% in value over January-May 2008), Australia (up 33% in volume and 35% in value), the Caribbean region (up 56% in volume and 53% in value), and Central and South America (up 25% in volume and 37% in value).

Individual market results have been extremely mixed, due in large part to the varied impact of the global economic recession. Despite limited market access for U.S. beef, Japan has increased its imports by 21% in volume to 29,198 metric tons and 22% in value over last year. Though Mexico remains the No. 1 destination for U.S. beef exports, a struggling economy – which suffered a further setback due to A-H1N1 influenza – has led to a 21% decline in U.S. beef exports there for a total of 128,875 metric tons and a 24% drop in value to $419.1 million.

In addition to Japan, beef exports have increased sharply to Vietnam (up 86% in volume and 124% in value over January-May of last year) and Hong Kong (up 41% in volume and 23% in value).

Other markets showing declines include Canada (down 11% in volume and 16% in value from 2008), Taiwan (down 10% in volume and value) and the Philippines (down 38% in volume and 32% in value). Russia’s imports of U.S. beef have increased 22% in volume but have declined 46% in value, as the market has shifted away from the U.S. muscle meats it was purchasing in large quantities last year and is now importing mostly variety meat

U.S. Meat Export Federation