World beef trade: Exports

By: Derrell S. Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension Livestock Marketing Specialist

Among top global beef exporters, the 2016 market situation is quite variable according to the latest USDA World Markets and Trade report for livestock and poultry.  India passed Brazil in 2014 to become the number one beef exporter in the world.   India, which exports mostly meat from water buffalo (also known as carabeef) continues to see strong demand from southeast Asia and the halal processing of Indian beef makes the meat popular in Muslim countries.  Indian beef exports, which have increased over three-fold in the last six years, are expected to increase again in 2016 keeping India as the top global beef exporting country.

Brazil is expected to regain the number two position in global beef exports in 2016 with an increase in exports from the 2015 level but still below the record level of 2014. Brazil overtook Australia in 2004 as the leading beef exporter, losing that position back to Australia for one year in 2011, before being overtaken by India in 2014 and also by Australia again in 2015.  Brazil’s weak currency is expected to boost 2016 beef exports but the weak Brazilian economy will limit both beef production and domestic consumption, keeping Brazil as the number two beef exporter in 2016

Australia is projected to drop back into the number three spot for beef exports in 2016 after temporarily overtaking Brazil for the second largest beef export total in 2015.  Drought-forced liquidation in Australia resulted in a jump in beef production and exports in 2014 and 2015. Whether or not drought continues, decreased herd inventories in Australia will result in decreased beef production and exports in 2016.  At some point, improving forage conditions will prompt herd rebuilding in Australia and result in additional supply squeeze due to heifer retention.  A significant portion of increased Australian beef exports in 2014 and 2015 have gone to the U.S.  In 2015, Australian exports of beef to the U.S. have exceeded the tariff rate quota with exports at the end of the year subject to over-quota tariff.  Australian beef exports to the U.S. are expected to moderate in 2016 from the sharply higher levels of 2014 and 2015.

The U.S. has been the fourth largest global beef exporter for several years and is expected to continue in that position in 2016.  U.S. beef exports experienced double-digit decreases in 2015 as a result of reduced beef production, high domestic beef prices and a strong U.S. dollar combining to challenge beef exports.  Exports are down sharply in 2015 to most major destinations, including Japan, Mexico, Canada and Hong Kong.  The only exception is South Korea, still up for the year to date but down year over year in the latest monthly data.  U.S. beef exports should stabilize and perhaps grow modestly in 2016 as domestic beef production begins to grow and beef prices moderate somewhat.  However, dollar strength is likely to continue and will be a headwind for U.S. beef exports.

The next tier of global beef exporters are significantly smaller than the top four and include New Zealand in fifth place, followed by Paraguay, Uruguay, Canada, the European Union and Mexico, in that order if current 2016 projections hold.  These five countries export roughly similar quantities and the rankings will likely change due to production and market conditions and trends in the countries. Exports from mature markets and long-time global market players such as Uruguay, Canada and the European Union are relatively stable while beef export newcomers Paraguay and Mexico are still growing rapidly and are likely to move up in the rankings over time.  Argentina, currently out of the top ten global beef exporters, may see modest export growth in 2016 but will likely remain a minor player in global beef markets.