The recent slowdown in oilseed and corn exports has served as a reminder to U.S. crop producers that high prices can cut into consumer interest over time.
But U.S. meat producers seem to be having no such problems, with beef and pork shipments looking set to hit all-time records in 2011 if the sales pace seen so far this year can be maintained.
Even though U.S. cattle and hog prices scaled all-time highs in 2011, exports of U.S. beef and pork have set a record pace so far this year – suggesting that overseas consumer interest is somewhat less price responsive than on the grains and oilseeds side where year-over-year declines in U.S. export sales look likely in corn, rice, soybeans and wheat.
Some of the staying power of U.S. meat export demand can be attributed to a lack of supply-side competition, as U.S. meat producers remain the most dominant in the industry and boast unrivalled reach via well-established export channels.
However, the main driver behind the sustained export interest has been on the demand side of the equation, where a combination of increasing per capita meat consumption coupled with cattle and hog production issues across an array of key countries has served to help keep U.S. meat in strong demand.
Over the first half of 2011 U.S. beef exports are running roughly 25 per cent ahead of where they were at the same point in 2010, at roughly 1.33 billion pounds. Should full-year 2011 beef exports surpass the 2010 total of 2.299 billion pounds by the same degree, that would amount to a new all-time record of more than 2.8 billion pounds.
Even if U.S. beef exports merely maintained their same pace over the latter half of the year – and did not pick up pace as was the case in the second half of 2010, total year exports would still hit a record.
Pork exports in 2011 are running 15 per cent ahead of the 2010 pace, and again look likely to come in at a record level come year-end thanks to enduring overseas interest despite the high price of hogs and pork. The 2010 pork exports total of 4.22 billion pounds was the second highest on record, but if 2011 sales over the second half of the year match those of the first then 2008’s all-time record should easily be surpassed.