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Beef, pork exports still face COVID obstacles
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Beef, pork exports still face COVID obstacles

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Beef and pork exports both opened 2021 below last year’s large numbers.

January beef exports were down 2% from a year ago, with values dropping by 3%. According to an analysis from the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the decline is attributed to a decrease in variety meat exports.

Muscle cut exports were similar to 2020 numbers.

Beef exports to South Korea were very strong, while the market continues to build momentum in China. Exports to the Middle East also increased after a down year.

Overall, pork exports in January were down 9% from a year ago, with export values down 13%. Muscle cut exports were down 11% in volume and 15% in value.

Pork exports to China/Hong Kong dropped as expected. However, exports to Japan were up, and demand remained strong in Central America, the Philippines and the Caribbean region.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said January represented a fairly solid start to 2021, but cautioned that exports still face COVID-related obstacles and significant transportation and labor challenges.

“As key destinations for U.S. red meat roll out COVID vaccination programs, the outlook for 2021 is optimistic, with retail meat demand remaining strong and the expectation that food service will rebound in more and more regions,” he said. “But transportation challenges are currently a dominant concern, particularly the congestion and container shortages at our West Coast ports where shorthanded crews are handling record-large cargo volumes. Labor is also at a premium in processing plants, which affects the industry’s ability to fully capitalize on demand for certain labor-intensive cuts and variety meat items.

“Although the global food service sector still has a long recovery ahead, international demand for U.S. red meat remains impressive and resilient. But a range of logistical challenges must be overcome in order to fully satisfy this demand.”

USMEF indicated that U.S. lamb exports climbed by 7% in January, with values down 43%.

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Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.

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