He told Global Meat News: “For the first time since BSE was discovered in the US, we’re back to exporting about 10% of our beef production, after being below 5% for several years. It’s a long climb back, but we’ve made some progress in that area.
“There’s no question that exchange rates have helped our exporters a lot, and we’ve seen some expansion to other key markets in Asia, as with income growth we see more consumption of meat. [The proportion of meat in the Asian diet went from 11.4% in 1979 to 28% in 2006.] Taiwan, in particular, has become a big importer, but exports to Russia have picked up as well.”
Trade relationships with the EU are also improving, as the European Parliament’s agriculture committee recently proposed to increase American hormone-free beef imports by 25,000mt. MEPs are due vote on the motion in March, but the move has already encouraged the US to review import restrictions with countries affected by BSE in the 1990s. “We hope to increase trade with the EU. We are working on regulations that would affect countries where BSE has been prevalent, trying to put through new regulations which I think would at least start to normalise trade,” Glauber said.
However, the USDA chief economist said there were still challenges ahead, especially due to feed prices. He added: “High grain prices have limited expansion in key developed countries. In the US, we’ve seen declining cow numbers and, despite fairly strong pork and beef prices, there’s still fairly flat production. I expect that to continue a bit.
“Over the longer term, if grain prices continue to level out and stay away from the spikes that we’ve seen, we might see some confidence go back into the industry with more meat production.”
Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, Glauber gave a US and global perspective on the agricultural outlook, and insisted on the importance of biotechnology to meet future food demand, as the world population is expected to reach 9.4bn by 2050.