Beef exports have evolved in recent years in a dynamic environment of global politics and trade policies, direct and indirect impacts of animal disease outbreaks, and growing beef preferences and consumption, according to Derrell Peel, livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University Extension.
Peel said compared to five years ago, total beef exports in 2020 were up by 15.6% over 2016. Total U.S. beef exports dropped 4.2% year over year in 2019 from the all-time peak level in 2018 with decreased exports to most major export destinations, according to the Meat Export Federation data.
He said COVID-19 pushed total beef exports down 2.3% year over year in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. But so far in 2021, Peel said total beef exports for January and February is down 1.1% year over year, with 2021 beef exports forecast to increase modestly over 2020.
Japan remains the largest U.S. beef export market since 2013 with the 2020 market share at 28% of total exports, Peel said. Beef exports to Japan grew at an average rate of 9.7% annually from 2016 to 2020 with peak exports in 2018 and a decrease in 2019 before rebounding modestly in 2020, despite pandemic disruptions. In the first two months of 2021, beef exports to Japan are down 11.5% year over year.
Peel said South Korea has been the fastest and most consistently growing major U.S. beef export market in recent years. South Korea became the second largest beef export market in 2016, moving ahead of Canada and Mexico. Beef exports to South Korea have increased an average of 17.4%in the last five years, pushing the country to a nearly 23% market share in 2020. He said in the first two months of 2021, beef exports to South Korea are up 15.1% year over year pushing South Korea ahead of Japan as the number one beef export market.
China/Hong Kong remains the third largest buyer of U.S. beef exports. The market share of beef exports to China/HK was 11.5% in 2020, the same as in 2016. However, in 2020, the total included 35% exports to China with the balance to Hong Kong, compared to 2016 when 100% of the exports were to Hong Kong.
Exports to Mexico were down 24.7% year over year in 2020, Peel said. As recently as 2019, Mexico was the number two beef export market with a 14% market share, he said. Recovery of beef exports to Mexico is likely to be slow with limited chances for improvement in 2021, Peel noted.
Beef exports to Canada decreased an average of 2.3% annually in the last five years dropping the country’s market share to 9.7% in 2020, Peel said. In the first two months of 2021, beef exports to Canada are down 7.5% year over year and the country has an 8.9% share of total exports thus far in the year.
Taiwan has been growing its market share of U.S. beef exports since 2016 increasing an average of 13.% annually. Taiwan has raised market share to 6.7% from 5.4% over the five-year period ending 2020. Peel said in 2021 total beef exports to Taiwan are down 23.8% in the first two months, compared to a year ago.