Red meat exports are still a mixed bag. Dan Halstrom, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation, says 2023 has been a good year for pork.
He says, “Momentum from earlier in the year continues in August, led by Latin America and Mexico. It’s more than strong. It’s record-breaking. We had our largest revenue month ever in August for pork, so it’s really broad-based growth in Latin America, Central America, and South America are all doing pretty well, as well as Mexico. Markets like Japan have made a comeback on pork in August. And then transitioning over to Southeast Asia, we’re seeing Taiwan and Australia, of all places, with boneless hams in Australia are seeing incredible growth year on year, so pork is sitting pretty good through August, and I think that momentum will continue for the rest of the year.”
It’s been a different story for beef exports according to Halstrom. He says, “Down 12 percent year-to-date, and August was down as well – here are some good news stories there – peak production is down too, so you have to take that into account – but Mexico is on fire on beef as well, up about 16 percent year-to-date. You also have Central and South America doing well on beef. So Latin America is carrying the water there as a whole. Asia is struggling a bit on beef. I mentioned Japan was up on pork, but we’re down quite a bit on beef, down 20 percent year-to-date. I would say the main reason for that, the primary one, is the strong U.S. dollar. It cracked through 150 a few days ago, so you’re looking at considerable strengthening year-on-year.”
There is still solid demand for U.S. beef in several markets, which Halstrom says shows the product is high quality. Halstrom says, “It’s a testament to a couple of things. Number one is the reputation as the safest product in the world, and number two is the highest quality and differentiated taste. I think that’s two of the things that are in our favor. We’re in that high-quality demographic. We’re not trying to market to everybody in the world. We’re marketing to the demographic that appreciates quality but is also willing to pay for it.”
What are the possibilities for exports during the remainder of 2023 and into next year?
Halstrom says, “On the beef side, our estimate right now is we’re looking at a bit of an improvement. We’re 12 percent down through August. We’re in that 8 percent downrange right now, so a little bit of improvement in the last part of the year, but nothing dramatic, I guess, is the best way to put it. But I think if we improve from where we are now, that’s a success when you consider that production is down five or six percent. On the pork side, I think we’re going to end the year somewhere in a nine to 10 percent growth range, so just maybe slightly below where we’re at right now. I think we’re in a good position on pork to finish out the year very close to where we’re at right now.”