October 12, 2021


Rising exports, falling imports cause lower availability of beef in US


Increasing US beef exports and declining US beef imports are leading to an overall drop of 0.2% in the domestic availability of beef, according to USDA forecasts for 2021.


The agency projects an increase in US beef production of 568 million pounds (+2%) over 2020, but a decline of 200 million pounds (-6%) in US beef imports.


During August, beef imports totaled 331.7 million pounds (carcass weight basis), which is almost 19 million pounds (-5%) from August 2020. Year-to-date, beef imports totaled 2.2 billion pounds, down nearly 149 million pounds (-6.3%) from 2020.


"Imported beef is not uniform. Most of the product coming from Oceania is lean grinding beef and a good portion of South American and Central American beef is also grinding beef," said Altin Kalo, economist with Steiner Consulting Group.


The reduction in beef imports from Australia has significantly affected the market for lean grinding beef.


"On the other hand, a larger portion of Canadian imports tend to be fed beef cuts, reflecting the production system there and regional supply relationships," Kalo said. "Our local supermarket in New England is currently selling imported strips and ribeyes coming from Canadian plants that are closer than plants in the Midwest."


Citing USDA data, Kalo said:"By far the biggest change has been imports from Australia. In August, US imports of Australian beef were estimated at 41.3 million pounds, down 30.2 million pounds or 42% compared to a year ago."


Steiner Consulting Group believes imports from Australia were lower in September and will be lower in October as well.


"It is interesting to note that shipments to the US were lower year-over-year even as overall Australian beef exports were up 10% last month. This is a pattern that we have seen all year," Kalo said.


Australian beef exports between January and September were down 8% compared to the previous year due to lower inventories and good pasture conditions.


"Australian beef exports to the US were down 31% while exports to South Korea, the Middle East and other smaller markets were up double digits," Kalo said. "Good demand and higher prices paid in other markets have limited the amount of Australian beef coming to the US and this situation is not expected to change much in 2022."


- Drovers