U.S. beef export values recently hit a new record, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), the data shows beef exports totaled 126,285 metric tons in March. The figure represents a one percent increase from last year and the third-largest on record. Value also increased to a new record of $1.07 billion, representing a 33 percent increase. USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said that demand is unlike anything he has seen during his time in the industry.
“While this momentum is fueled by mainstay markets such as South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, demand is also very strong in China/Hong Kong and key Latin American markets, while exports to the Middle East have rebounded impressively,” Halstrom noted in a press release. “Consumers throughout the world have shown how much they value the quality of U.S. beef, but disposable income is under increasing pressure as they pay more for energy and other daily needs.”
Export value for the full first quarter was up 41 percent, to more than $3 billion. Volume during the first quarter was measured at 353,852 metric tons, a six percent increase from a year ago. South Korea has become the top destination for U.S. beef. First quarter exports increased nine percent to 75,445 metric tons valued at $792.6 million. The growth in value represents a 57 percent increase from 2021. While first quarter volume dropped by four percent to Japan, value increased 22 percent to $594.2 million. Direct exports to China set a new record in March, contributing to an overall first quarter increase of 36 percent. Export value grew by 59 percent to $582.4 million.
While beef export values have shown tremendous gains in the first part of 2022, Halstrom cautions that numbers could come down. COVID-19 lockdowns in China have curbed product movement, which will likely be reflected in export data for April and May. Logistical challenges also present further obstacles for export movement overseas. Chilled meat shipments to Asian markets face particularly difficult complications.