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International Beef Trade Update

By Josh Maples

USDA ERS released the estimates for beef trade during the month of May on July 6th. The export data show a sharp increase as compared to the pandemic-disrupted levels from a year ago.

International Beef Trade Update

Beef and veal exports were 69 percent higher in May 2021 as compared to May 2020. Of course, May 2020 was far from normal. As shown in the export chart above, May and June 2020 were exceptionally low export months as trade was disrupted due to the pandemic.

Even though the comparison to a low level from 2020 leads to the large percentage increase, that shouldn’t hide the fact that beef exports during May 2021 were very strong. The 318 million pound total was the largest monthly total on record and was 6 percent higher than the next largest monthly total. May 2021 exports were 16.7 percent above May 2019. January-May 2021 beef exports are 17.7 percent above the same period of 2020.

South Korea and Japan were the top export destinations for U.S. beef during May. Exports to China continue to be strong as China has been the third largest export destination for U.S. beef year-to-date during 2021 followed by Mexico and Canada. The latest WASDE report released last week showed a bump in expectations for beef exports during 2021 as compared to a year ago based “on continued firm demand in Asia.” The latest WASDE forecast is a 16 percent increase in exports this year compared to 2020.

Imports during May 2021 were very similar to a year ago. As shown in the chart below, the biggest pandemic impact on imports occurred during the summer of 2020 when imports spiked. Summer 2021 is expected to be lower than last year. On the import side, the WASDE forecast is a 10 percent decline for 2021 as compared to 2020.

International Beef Trade Update

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