By Donald Stotts
Beef exports continue to support U.S. cattle and beef markets thanks to six strong major markets plus a number of smaller markets, including significant potential for China to be a much bigger market for American beef over time.
The numbers are in and show American beef exports for the first three months of the year increased 12.2 percent, with March up 11.4 percent. That is good news for major beef-producing states such as Oklahoma, the nation’s fifth-leading producer of cattle and calves. Thus far in 2018, the United States has exported beef to 100 different countries.
“Still, 85 of those countries account for only 5.9 percent of year-to-date beef exports,” said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock marketing specialist. “The top 15 beef export markets represent 94.1 percent of exports with the top six markets accounting for 86.5 percent of total beef exports.”
The number seven to 15 export markets account for 7.6 percent of beef exports. Most of these are small markets with limited potential to be significantly bigger markets for U.S. beef. These markets include countries such as Chile, Philippines, Netherlands, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and United Arab Emirates.
“Vietnam, currently America’s number 10 beef export market, has been as high as sixth but most of that is believed to be transshipments into China,” Peel said.
China is currently the number 12 export market for U.S. beef and has accounted for less than 1 percent of total beef exports since exports to China resumed in June 2017.
“Despite the slow pace of exports to China thus far, there is tremendous potential for China to be a very significant export market for U.S. beef,” Peel said. “Despite relatively low per capita beef consumption, China is the second-largest beef-consuming nation in the world, behind only the United States.”
Historically, China has been isolated from global beef markets with consumption matching domestic production. However, in the past six years, Chinese beef consumption has sharply outpaced domestic production and Chinese beef imports have grown rapidly.
“By 2016, China was the world’s second-largest beef-importing country,” Peel said. “Current projections by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service continue to list Chinese beef imports as being second to the United States but jumping from 72 percent of U.S. import levels in 2017 to 87 percent of U.S. beef imports in 2018.”
Peel explains the implication is China could well become the world’s largest beef-importing country within the next few years. Naturally, the U.S. beef industry would like to increase its market share in this rapidly growing market, bringing more profit home to America.
Among the top six beef export markets:
- Japan retains its recent historic number one spot, with January to March imports of U.S. beef fractionally lower year over year.
- Number two South Korea continues to be a very strong market, with U.S. beef exports up 28.8 percent for the year to date.
- Mexico, the number three market for U.S. beef, increased its imports at a modest rate, up 3.1 percent compared to last year.
- Hong Kong, America’s fourth-largest market for U.S. beef, has shown an increase of 33.7 percent year-over-year for the January through March dates.
- U.S. beef exports to number five Canada decreased year over year, down 9.6 percent compared to the same period last year.
- Taiwan is America’s number six beef export market and increased its imports of U.S. beef 36.7 percent year over year.
Oklahoma cash receipts for cattle average about $3.7 billion annually, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service data.