US government forecasts its beef imports will fall in 2016

Latest forecasts from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that US beef and veal imports look set to fall by 200,000t next year.

It says smaller volumes of imported beef, pork, cattle, and swine, plus lower pork and swine unit values, in fiscal 2016 from 2015 lead to a $1 billion, or 6%, decline in the total import value of livestock products.

Looking at beef in particular the USDA forecasts that in terms of value, imports will fall by $800m next year.

These projected changes are in contrast to increased imports of livestock products in 2015 despite larger production of domestic cattle and swine.

Higher unit values for imported beef and cattle in 2015 significantly raise their corresponding import values from 2014 levels.

Larger beef imports in this are partly because of continued domestic decline in beef production. The USDA says decreased production is due to historically low cattle inventories and the start of domestic herd rebuilding as improved pasture conditions and lower grain prices spur expansion.

Following the announcement of its opening to much fanfare earlier this year, the US beef market’s elusive manufacturing segment remains the big prize for the Irish beef industry.

Latest CSO figures show that Irish beef exports to the US for the first six months of 2015 were only 31t with a value of €194,000 to the Irish economy.

US exports

The USDA also says 2016 US agricultural exports are projected at $138.5 billion, down $1.0 billion from the revised $139.5 billion forecast for fiscal 2015.

This decline is primarily due to oilseeds and products, which are down $4.4 billion as a result of lower expected soybean and soybean meal prices and reduced export volumes.

Grain and feed exports are forecast to be up $1.1 billion from fiscal 2015, largely due to higher expected wheat shipments. Cotton exports are forecast down $400 million due to a smaller U.S. crop.

Fiscal 2016 livestock, poultry, and dairy exports are forecast up $600m from the previous year to $30.4 billion. Higher volumes are forecast for all meats.

However, beef export value is forecast virtually unchanged at a record $6.2 billion as prices are expected to moderate. Pork is forecast to increase $300m to $5.1 billion as larger volumes more than offset lower unit values.

The USDA says dairy exports are forecast to remain essentially unchanged at $5.8 billion as declining global prices are expected to offset modest gains in export volumes.

US agricultural imports to reach levels

Total US agricultural imports in 2016 are forecast at a record $122.5 billion, $7.0 billion higher than fiscal 2015, according to the USDA.

Increases in import values are expected for most products in 2016, with the largest gains in horticultural, and sugar and tropical products.

The US agricultural trade surplus is expected to fall by $8.0 billion in fiscal 2016 to $16.0 billion. This would be the smallest surplus since 2007.

For fiscal 2015, the forecast of $139.5 billion for exports is down $1.0 billion from last quarter’s forecast. Imports are down $1.5 to $115.5 billion.

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