Export numbers rebounding to move record supplies in 2017

By Jeff DeYoung, Iowa Farmer Today

CAMBRIDGE, Iowa — Meat cases will be full in 2017, and Howard Hill says the export market will be more important than ever when it comes to moving record supplies.

“There is an awful lot of meat protein in the United States,” he says. “The key for us as beef and pork producers is the ability to export more product next year.”

Hill, a veterinarian who raises hogs and purebred Angus cattle near here, is also past president of the National Pork Producers Council. He says growth in his sow and cow herds has “been pretty much static.”

“We’re not increasing the sow numbers, although there are buildings going up in the industry,” Hill says.

Exports numbers appear to be rebounding late in 2016, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). The data suggests beef exports will be up 7 percent from a year ago, says Joe Schuele, USMEF communications director.

He says late-year increases are due to surges in chilled beef exported to Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

USMEF anticipates beef exports to jump by another 5 percent in 2017.

Pork exports are expected to be up 5 percent this year, with another 4 percent growth expected in 2017.

Schuele says increased exports to China fueled growth over the first half of 2016, with increased tonnage to Mexico, Japan, South Korea and Colombia reported in the second half of the year.

“U.S. beef and pork exports rebounded over the past year and will enter 2017 on a positive trajectory,” he says. “Maintaining this momentum is critical at a time when both beef and pork production are increasing.

“While moving these larger supplies presents a challenge, higher production has enhanced the global competitiveness of U.S meat.”

While meat production is increasing, demand remains strong, says Lee Schulz, Extension livestock marketing economist with Iowa State University.

He says the U.S. is looking at roughly 100 billion pounds of red meat and poultry production in 2017, with more in the chute for 2018.

“With the higher supplies we are going to see higher per capita consumption of meat,” Schulz says. “It’s really that interchange of quantity and price — when there’s more meat, prices are usually lower, and consumers are going to buy.”

He says retailers have aggressively promoted meat in their advertising, particularly pork.

“We’ve especially seen this with pork, where retailers have been able to feature it more due to the lower prices and large supplies,” Schulz says. “They’re really working to move product.”

In addition to strong domestic demand, he expects export growth to continue in 2017.

“On the beef side, in addition to stronger exports, we are also going to be importing less beef,” Schulz says. “Beef imports are down 10 percent this year, and we expect imports to be down 11 percent next year.”

He anticipates a 2 percent increase in poultry production in 2017.

Slaughter weights should be roughly the same next year, Schulz adds.

Hill says while meat supplies increase, it is imperative that livestock organizations continue to work with USMEF to increase exports.

“We need to work with them to expand the scope of our markets,” he says. “We are getting very aggressive in markets such as Colombia, and we’re looking to South America and Central America to boost exports.

“We have key markets like Mexico for pork, but we have other opportunities that are available out there for us to pursue.”