The U.S. Meat Export Federation had record attendance at its Spring Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Dan Halstrom, president and CEO of USMEF, says they have a lot to celebrate.
Halstrom; “You need to start with pork, without a doubt. Pork export business through the first quarter is up dramatically at 14-15 percent. Its broad-based growth. I mean, it’s not just one market. The star is Mexico and a lot of Latin American countries, but you have other markets, some of the smaller regions, that are contributing: Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, and Australia, so it’s encouraging to see some of these markets coming back, and it’s no coincidence when we’re working in these markets all the time. But one of our major competitors in the global marketplace is Europe their production is down over 10 percent in the last two years and prices are significantly higher. So that’s a significant shift in the landscape globally, and the U.S. industry is starting to capitalize.”
He says demand for American meat products overseas is still strong; “Demand for beef and pork is, considering the higher prices on beef, hanging in there very well. And then on the pork side, we wish we could force some of those prices even higher because I think the demand is there globally. We had the third-largest year ever on pork last year. We had a record on beef, and that’s with a lot of the Asian markets being hamstrung. Foodservice is still not back to normal. They call it 60-70 percent of normal in a lot of these Asian countries, so there’s a tailwind later in 2023 on both pork and beef.”
They’re seeing beef exports pick up after a slow start to 2023. Halstrom; “On the pork side, we’re up 15 percent through the first quarter. We’re pretty optimistic, especially given the European situation where they’re shorter on supply at much higher pricing. Right now, our official forecast for the year is up eight percent on pork. Of course, we have a long way to go with nine more months for the year. On the beef side, we started down quite a bit in January and February, but you have to remember that a year ago, it was records. I mean through the roof, so we’re comparing to a very high bar. March though came in 20,000 tons higher than both January and February, so we’re very encouraged by that. Our forecast on the beef side – of course, production is gonna be down five percent – but our forecast right now is down four percent.”
There are also opportunities for increasing lamb exports as well according to Halstrom. He says; “Exactly. It’s about telling the story, and the story is not about price. We need to get to where the story is about quality, consistency, uniqueness, flavor,, and then the price is somewhere down on the list. When we can get that on the lamb side, then we’ve won, and that’s what’s happened in Japan. There are other opportunities. Mexico’s a stronghold for U.S. lamb. The Caribbean, although it’s not up a lot at the moment, it’s strong, and Central America and some other markets as well. But you have access in places like Japan, Hong Kong, and Korea – we’re still working on – but we need to make further penetration into these high-end food service markets, and that’s a good example of what we have done with Wolfgang’s and Peter Luger’s.”
Story provided by NAFB News Service and Susan Littlefield, KRVN/Rural Radio Network, Surprise, Nebraska