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2024 Red Meat Export Potential a Mixed Bag

Looking at 2024 U.S. red meat export potential, the forecast is mixed. Erin Borror, vice president of economic analysis with the U.S. Meat Export Federation, says the numbers look better for U.S. pork.

Borror says, “On the pork side, it’s been really strong growth or even a rebound in exports in 2023 – about an eight percent increase- and then expecting and forecasting a further increase in pork exports in 2024, possibly around another four percent gain off of the increase in 2023.”

She says that when looking at global pork production, U.S. pork is well-positioned for further growth. Borror says, “On the supply side in both Europe and in China, what’s happened is Europe’s production has declined by about 2.8 million metric tons or by about 12 percent if we look at their 2021 peak production compared to where it’s going to end this year. But it’s lined up exactly with China’s decrease in imports of pork, so they will have declined about the same, about 2.8 million tons lower than at their peak. And in 2024, talking to European producers, there was not much optimism for a rebound whatsoever. There is a chance that China’s production moderates in 2024. It’s hard to get excited about that at this moment. We’re still watching and not putting our hopes on it.”

Beef has faced several challenges during 2023, and that pattern will continue in the new year. Borror says, “I see 2024 as the real rationing of demand for U.S. beef because we know production is going to decline further, and so you’re looking at a domestic consumer versus our international consumers and who’s going to bid more. I often hear the perception that we’re producing less beef, we don’t need to export as much anyway, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth, especially when we need to enable higher prices across the whole supply chain to send the signal to rebuild the herd.”

There are some reasons for optimism in the new year according to Borror. She says, “We could see a couple of tailwinds in 2024. Recently, after the Federal Reserve meeting in December, we’re hearing a bit more from the markets about lower interest rate expectations and some hope that we could have a bit weaker dollar, at least for commodity exports. We’ve seen these inventory pressures for actual meat in freezers and markets starting to ease, and so I think there’s some optimism there as importers have kind of adjusted. As they expect higher U.S. beef prices, I think they’ll be more willing to buy because we have seen that pricing situation normalize.”

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