– Josh Maples, Assistant Professor & Extension Economist, Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University
The latest estimates for beef trade were released last week by USDA ERS. These estimates included data for the month of August. Beef exports set a record during August 2021 and were 21 percent higher as compared to the same month a year ago.
Beef exports totaled 324.5 million pounds during August which is the largest monthly total on record for any month. This comes on the heels of the previous monthly record that was just set in May 2021. Beef exports have been very strong throughout 2021 as shown in the chart above. For the January-August period, exports are 21 percent higher than the same period of 2020 which included pandemic-driven low export months.
Japan was again the largest volume destination for beef exports at 77.2 million pounds during August which was a 10 percent increase over a year ago. South Korea was the number two destination at 68.4 million pounds (down 9 percent). Beef exports to China continued to be very strong at 59.4 million pounds during the month of August and was the third largest destination for exports during August.
The year-over-year changes for exports to China continue to be eye-popping (see chart below). Exports to China during January-August 2021 are 840 percent above the same period for 2020. Exports to Hong Kong have declined 31 percent during the same period. If beef exports to China and Hong Kong are combined, the year-to-date increase is still 163 percent above 2020 levels.
Beef imports (chart below) were about 5 percent lower during August 2021 compared to a year ago and have been about 6 percent lower year-to-date. Canada was the largest import source for beef during August followed by Mexico and New Zealand. Imports from Australia are down more than 40 percent from a year ago.