In the U.S. there is a shift occurring, with greater demand for lower cost beef items, which has pushed the price of beef cattle down over the past several weeks. According to World Agriculture Outlook Board Chairman Gerry Bange, a positive in the beef market is that exports are improving.
The U.S. has essentially been playing catch up as far as beef exports are concerned since December 2003 when many countries banned beef from the U.S. after a case of BSE was found here.
"We are seeing somewhat of a recovery in the Korean market, things are moving along," Bange says. "We're also seeing somewhat of a recovery in the Japanese market."
Those two countries were major buyers of U.S. beef prior to 2003. The deal to reopen the Korean market to U.S. beef earlier this year was met with widespread protesting that temporarily stopped the deal that had been worked out from being implemented. However the furor has died down and just three short months later U.S. beef accounts for nearly 50% of the total value of Korean meat imports.
Bange is forecasting that U.S. beef exports in 2009 will top two billion pounds, which is up almost 10% from this year. However the U.S. still has a way to go to reach pre-BSE export levels.
"It's not a bad number compared to where we had been in the recent past," Bange says. "But it pales in comparison to the 2.5 billion pounds that we recorded back in 2003."