U.S. Beef Exports are on a Record Pace

U.S. beef exports are on a record pace, as the world’s growing middle class — which has both the desire and ability to buy more high-protein food such as beef, increasingly consumes U.S. beef. The U.S exported 3.16 billion pounds of beef in 2018, up 10.3% from 2017, according to the USDA. This is the most beef exports on record and the first that exports have exceeded 3 billion pounds. U.S. beef and beef products. Japan accounted for more than 25 percent of total U.S. beef exports of $7.3 billion last year.

Exports were higher from year-earlier levels to most of the major destinations. This was the third consecutive year of double- digit growth, each year with record-high volumes. Expected overseas demand and readily available exportable U.S. beef supplies result in the 2019 export forecast being unchanged from the previous month’s forecast at 3.255 billion pounds.

U.S. beef exports to South Korea have accelerated in recent years since implementation of the United States-South Korea (KORUS) free trade agreement in 2012 that reduced tariffs and non-tariff barriers. South Korea has become a booming market for U.S. beef that contributed more than half of the increase in the volume of U.S. exports in 2018, with 35 percent year-over-year growth. Further, more than 20 percent of total U.S. beef exports were shipped to South Korea in 2018.

Strong consumer demand, lower tariffs than its largest competitor Australia, increased exportable supplies in the United States, and a relatively weaker U.S. dollar in the first half of the year were likely drivers of this growth. As a result, beef exports exceeded the pre-BSE level of exports to become the largest supplier of beef to South Korea in 2018.