U.S. exports of red meat began 2014 on a positive note despite concerns that the year as whole could be challenging, says the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
According to USDA statistics, USMEF says beef exports continued the strong performance set in 2013, rising 13% in volume and 16% in value for the month, bolstered by double-digit growth to Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong.
Pork exports rose 3% in volume and 2% in value for the month, driven by growth to Mexico, while lamb exports increased 7% in volume and 9% in value.
Higher prices ahead
USMEF expects higher U.S. pork and beef prices to create challenges for American red meat exports in the months ahead, particularly in markets where customers are more price-sensitive.
"In pork, there are a number of recognized challenges on the production side as well as unresolved access issues," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "In addition, we are also seeing increased competition in the form of higher marketing budgets and favorable prices for the EU, Brazil and Canada."
Seng also noted that with U.S. beef production expected to drop 5% this year, and already running below last year's levels, it will be challenging to maintain export levels.
Strong performances in the key markets of Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong, plus solid growth in Central/South America offset a drop in exports to Canada, partially driven by the weaker Canadian dollar, as well as declines in the value of exports to the Middle East and volume to South Korea.
The reemerging Indonesian market was the eighth-largest single-country destination by volume as exports continued the strong pace set back in October following improved market access conditions.