USMEF highlights key markets and threats to red meat exports

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

USMEF discusses key target markets

Related tags Us Japan Beef Pork

US red meat exporters shined a spotlight on some of the main markets it is looking to grow presence in, with a focus on Asia.

During the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Strategic Planning Conference, the country’s relationship with Asia was examined.

Wendy Cutler, vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, gave an overview of relations between the US and Asia since the former withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) including the preliminary US-Japan trade agreement.

“The great news for you is that this is largely an agricultural deal,”​ Cutler said. "Under this agreement we secured from Japan most of the agricultural market access that we forfeited when we lost TPP. And I think what's really great for beef and pork is that when this deal goes into effect, which should be Jan. 1, we're going to come into that deal 'caught up' with the other TPP countries, meaning that we'll get the same tariff rates that they're getting.”

Cutler added that US agriculture is understandably “encouraged by progress in the US-China negotiations”​, as the two sides are said to be close to completing a phase one agreement that will improve access for agricultural exports but cautioned that the situation remains very volatile, and that finalizing the details of such an agreement often proves difficult.

USMEF president and CEO Dan Halstrom also briefed members on new opportunities for red meat exports. In addition to the US-Japan trade agreement, Halstrom said a US-specific share of the European Union's duty-free beef quota will deliver more reliable and consistent access to the high-value European market. This measure is currently under consideration in the EU Parliament. Halstrom also stressed the importance of bringing the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement to a ratification vote.

“From a carcass utilization standpoint, Canada and Mexico complement our Asian markets perfectly,”​ Halstrom said. “I hate to think what round prices would be if not for Canada and Mexico, because we don't sell many rounds to Asia. On the pork side, there are some hams exported to Asia but it's not the primary item. Hams are the No. 1 item going to Mexico and pretty high on the list for Canada.”

Alternative proteins

During the conference, the potential impact of alternative proteins on global demand for red meat was discussed. The session was moderated by USMEF Economist Erin Borror and included Jihae Yang, USMEF director in South Korea; Yuri Barutkin, USMEF representative in Europe; and Glynn Tonsor, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University as well as a presentation by Allan Gray, a professor at Purdue University and director of the school's Center for Food and Agricultural Business.

Gray's advice to USMEF members was to help people understand why traditional meat is the best choice.

"We all like choices, so the urge to take away alternative proteins as a choice may not be the best strategy,"​ he said. "What we should be saying to them is, 'you have choices, but our product is the best choice and here is why.'"

The USMEF also elected new officers to its senior team during the conference. Cevin Jones, a cattle feeder from Eden, Idaho, was elected USMEF chair and succeeds Iowa pork producer Conley Nelson.

In a speech to USMEF members, he encouraged them to remain steadfast in their commitment to international marketing. “I expect the trade environment to continue to be very challenging, but we have experienced, dedicated people on the ground in international markets across the world who give USMEF the ability to adapt and change,"​ he said.

Other appointments to the USMEF officer team for 2019-2020 include new chair-elect Pat Binger of Wichita, Kansas who is a vice president at Cargill Protein Group; CEO of Birko Corporation Mark Swanson is USMEF's new vice chair and the newest USMEF officer is Dean Meyer, who was elected secretary-treasurer.

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