9.5% fall in US beef imports could be a blow to Irish export hopes

The volume of beef imported into the US during the first three months of the year has dropped considerably, recent figures from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) show.

Between January and March 2016, imports dropped by 9.5%, down 83,117t on the same time in 2015.

The fall in the volume of beef imported during the first three months of the year follows a 12.5% fall US beef imports in 2015 on the same period in 2014.

This fall in imports may not necessarily be good news for Irish farmers.

The now former Minster for Agriculture, Simon Coveney previously said the opening of the US market was “a tremendous opportunity to market Irish beef throughout the US.”

During the first three months of the year, Irish beef exports to the US were valued at €6m, with 700t of primal and sub-primal cuts exported by Irish beef processors.

Coveney was also hopeful that Ireland would sell in the region of €50-100m worth of Irish beef into the US in 2015, but the actually figure stood closer to €11m.

However, the Department of Agriculture is still awaiting clearance for manufacturing beef (mince) exports to the US from US food safety officials.

Gaining access to the US manufacturing beef market is seen by many industry commentators as a ‘big prize’ for the Irish beef sector.

But, the fall in the volume of beef imported into the US, both in 2015 and the first three months of 2016 suggests that the deficit in the US beef market is starting to ease.

Figures from the USDA also shows that the volume of beef exported from the US between January and March stood at 534,003t, up by 1.5% on 2015 levels.

The US beef herd is also undergoing aggressive expansion. According to the AHDB, this expansion finally resulted in the halt in the decline of the US national herd.

In November of 2015, there was a fall in the number of heifers destined for slaughter, which indicates that the US cow herd was likely to expand.

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