December 22, 2015
"Uninspiring" 2015 for US beef exports, says USDA


US beef exports had underwent an "uninspiring" year in 2015, according to the USDA's Economic Research Service.


Factors contributing to a weaker export performance are a strong US dollar, soft global demand for US beef, and lower year-on-year production in the country.


In October, beef exports to key US markets were below year-prior levels, with the exception of Mexico which rose by 13 %.


Japan, the top destination for US fed beef, continues to import more beef from Australia than from the States, adversely affecting overall exports.


However, the pace of Australian cattle slaughter has dropped and slaughtering is expected to decline significantly next year, thus constraining beef exports. This should help boost demand for US beef exports to Japan in 2016.


Overall, the US is expected to produce more beef in 2016 at lower prices, while also increasing beef for export. Lower beef prices should partially mitigate the net impact of a strong dollar and prompt renewed interest in US beef on a global level.


US beef imports were reported lower year-on-year in October for the first time since February 2014. USDA reported total beef imports at 237 million pounds, down about 13% relative to a year earlier.


The volume of beef from Australia declined sharply (-33%, year-on-year) for October, but year-to-date totals are about 34% higher than a year earlier.


Beef imports from other major suppliers, namely, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Uruguay, and Brazil, were all reported higher for the year in October and the January through October period. 


According to US Customs data, Australia has already filled 100% of its World Trade Organization tariff-rate quota of 378,214 tonnes.


The USDA noted that it is significant for Australia to fill its WTO quota for the first time in over 10 years.  It is expected that the flow of processing beef from Australia will be significantly lower through the remainder of the year. The Australian cattle industry is at a pivotal point, the agency added.


Meanwhile, with cattle inventories low, producers have begun to reduce slaughter rates. Herd rebuilding is expected to begin next year, assuming favorable weather. These factors will limit the volume of Australian processing beef available for export in 2016, according to the USDA.


In addition, reduced demand for processing beef from the US will also adversely affect

Australian exports next year.

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