WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2012- U.S. beef cattle imports in 2011 finished strong with 2.075 million head, according to a report from USDA’s Economic Research Service, “Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook.”
The total 2.075 million head is nine percent below a year earlier, but still indicative of strong import levels in the face of tightened North American Cattle inventory levels, according to the report. Drought extending from Southern Plains down to Northern Mexico, in addition to strong feeder cattle prices, served as the impetus for increased imports from Mexico in 2011.
ERS predicts total cattle imports will be approximately two percent lower in 2012, forecast at 2.025 million head. Lower imports are expected from both Canada and Mexico.
Beginning in July 2011, U.S. imported feeder cattle prices (Las Cruces 500-600 lbs) averaged $34.77 per hundredweight higher than equivalent Mexico City wholesale grass-fed steer prices.
The seasonal fall peak in U.S. cattle imports from Mexico was again pronounced as imports surged in November to more than 189 thousand head. Through December, AMS weekly reports indicated total 2011 cattle imports from Mexico to be 15 percent above year-earlier levels.
Weekly cattle imports from Canada through December were 19 percent below a year ago, according to AMS reports. Imports of Canadian slaughter cows and feeder cattle, however, should continue to remain tight as herd rebuilding efforts are underway in Canada, according to the report.
According to a special article, “Mexico’s Emerging Role as an Exporter of Beef to the United States” by Rachel J. Johnson and Amy D. Hagerman, U.S. beef imports from Mexico have at least doubled in each of the last 2 years, continuing an upward trend that began in 2003.
“The impetus for the increased imports is beef from Mexican Tipo Inspección Federal (TIF) plants and increased production of grain-fed beef, the quality and type of beef U.S. consumers prefer,” according to the article. “The increase in coarse grain domestic feed use in Mexico, in addition to increased exports of U.S. feed and distillers’ grains, is evidence of the shift toward fed beef in Mexico.”
Beef imports from Mexico in 2010 totaled 107 million pounds, making Mexico the fifth largest exporter of beef to the United States. However, it is notable that beef imports from Mexico still serve a very small portion of overall US beef consumption, the writers added.
Regarding projected exports, the ERS report concluded that beef exports for 2011 are expected to be 21 percent higher, year-over-year at 2.78 billion pounds. The strength in the U.S. beef export market should continue this year, as exports are expected to be near 2011 levels.
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