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USMEF reports strong global demand for U.S. red meat

IARN — Recent data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation shows U.S. beef and pork exports opened 2021 below the large volumes posted a year ago.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom says there is strong global demand for U.S. red meat, but exports face transportation and labor challenges. He notes that January beef exports were very strong to South Korea and continued to gain momentum in China.

“January stats on beef, it was a solid month,” Halstrom said. “It was steady with a year ago on the muscle cuts. Probably the two markets that stand out are China and Korea. We’re on our fourth wave now in Korea of coronavirus spikes, but I think overall there’s some momentum building up on the foodservice side.”

“Make no mistake,” he continued, “the real driver here is retail. There is some sustained growth going on in China. This is a demand segment that really hasn’t had a lot of high-quality grain fed beef and I think it’s a testament to the Phase One China Agreement. We’re starting to see the results right now.”

While pork exports to China declined as expected, shipments increased to a range of markets including Japan, Central America and the Philippines.

“January on the pork side came in pretty much like we thought it would,” Halstrom said. “The volume was down 9 percent at 249,000 tons, but that’s mainly because of China. We knew China would be down. The really good news here is we’re seeing some pretty broad-based growth across other countries. Japan stands out, Central America coming off a record year is also looking very strong, and the Philippines had a volume that was almost double a year ago.”

While optimistic about the year ahead, Halstrom cautioned that vessel congestion and container shortages at West Coast ports present a significant obstacle for exports. He added that tight labor supplies at processing plants continue to impact production and exports of certain cuts and variety meat items.

Story courtesy of the Iowa Agribusiness Radio Network.

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