Shipments of US beef to the key export markets of Japan and Korea surged in August according to trade reports.
US beef exports to Japan in August increased by 40 percent year on year to 12,593 tonnes, the second highest monthly volume since the country resumed exports to Japan in 2006, according to Meat and Livestock Australia.
Japan imported 47,132 tonnes of beef during August 2011, which was 4pc higher than the same month last year.
Of that total Australian exports accounted for 29,011t, which was 7pc lower than the same month of 2010. Chilled shipments were hit hard by the surging US volumes, contracting by 24pc in the same period, MLA reported.
South Korea’s Yonhap News agency said US beef imports at the end of August for the calendar year to date totalled 76,782 tonnes, representing a six-fold increase over the past four years.
Imports of US beef to Korea are expected to grow further when the Korean-US free trade agreement takes effect. The free trade pact was first signed in 2007 and then modified last year but has yet to be ratified by the legislatures of both countries.
The rise in beef imports reported by Korean Customs Services prompted Rep. Kwon Kyung-seok of the ruling Grand National Party to express alarm for South Korea’s domestic livestock industry.
"(We) need systematic support measures for (domestic) livestock farms that were affected by the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak and the rising price of animal feed," he told the Yonhap News agency, suggesting improvements in facilities and distribution systems.
MLA said the continued high slaughter of cows in the US, and subsequent large supply of beef, was also putting downward pressure on the price of beef imports to the US.
“Added to this is the expectation of traders that larger volumes of imported beef will reach the US market from Australia and New Zealand with the appreciation of the US$ and potentially greater available supplies into October and November,” MLA said.
“The lower than expected placements of cattle on feed during August will likely have a positive effect on mid-term price expectations, with feelings that the high domestic slaughter cannot be sustained. Grinding beef prices are expected to remain strong in the short-to-medium term.”
The US imported 90CL beef price slipped 1.5US¢, to 178¢/lb CIF, but in A$ terms, lifted 5.1¢, to 372.2¢/kg.