While global economic uncertainty can change predictions at any moment, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) looks for 2013 to be fairly steady in terms of pork and beef exports. The export trade group held its strategic planning meeting this week in Indianapolis.
While subcommittees discussed any number of issues surrounding U.S. meat export opportunities and challenges, market share and possible expansion, the federation’s staff and leadership offered some perspective to the media.
“With high feed prices and other production costs, it’s a difficult time for pork producers,” shared Danita Rodibaugh, USMEF chairman and Indiana pork producer. “It is more important than ever that we capitalize on opportunities in foreign markets to get the best return on each carcass and every single cut.”
So far in 2012, that return to U.S. pork producers has been running $56.50 per head, nearly $3 more than the record level of 2011, she noted. For beef, the return has been $212 per head, up 6 percent from year-ago levels, which has occurred despite a lower volume of sales.
U.S. pork exports have held strong through the first eight months of the year—up 2 percent in volume and 8 percent in value from 2011’s red-hot sales. “We hear a lot of talk about exports lifting our economy,” Rodibaugh says. “In that respect, pork is truly one of the nation’s pacesetters.”
“In the end, we expect 2012 to be close to 2011’s record exports,” said Phil Seng, USMEF’s president and chief executive officer, regarding all U.S. meat exports. “Not many industries can say that they are growing their market around the world.” In 2011, the United States exported $11.5 billion worth of meat to more than 100 countries.
“I cannot begin to tell you how important these results are to the bottomline of our operation and thousands like us across the United States,” Rodibaugh added.
So far, 2012 has been a good year, Seng noted. He pointed to the implementation of the three free-trade agreements— to South Korea, Panama and Colombia—as contributing to the positive trend.
The CODEX Minimum Residue Limits (MRL) passed in July is a “very important milestone,” Seng says, as it advanced the commitment to basing decisions on scientific results. Russia’s ascension into the World Trade Organization (WTO) also should level the playing field based on science. “Russia is now in the league of nations that is complaint with international (scientific) standards,” Seng notes. “Let’s hope that they play by the rules.