US beef imports reach highest levels in 11 years – Over 1m tonne imported in 2015

New figures show that the US imported more beef last year than any of the previous 11 years, up 50% on 2013 figures.

The US imported 1.08m tonnes of beef in 2015, according to figures from the AHDB (the organisation for beef and lamb in the UK).

This marks a considerable change for the US beef industry, as it is now dependent on imports to meet its beef demand.

The US previously produced about 100,000t more beef than its domestic market required, but due to a seven-year decline in its cattle herd, it had to import almost 360,000t of beef last year to satisfy the markets demand.

Changes in the currency market also had a negative impact on the US beef industry, making its beef more expensive to other countries, the AHDB reports.

But, the strengthening of the Dollar compared to the euro has made Irish and European beef cheaper on the US market, meaning that US beef buyers could potentially look at the EU to supply its beef requirement.

In February of 2015, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney announced the opening of the US beef market and predicted that Irish beef exports would be worth between €50 and €100m in 2015.

The volume of Irish beef exported to the US last year stood at 1,800t and although the volume was small, the opening of the US market was seen as a major milestone for the Irish beef industry.

Ireland is still awaiting clearance to ship manufacturing beef (mince) to the US, with the majority of beef shipped from Ireland so far being whole cuts.

US beef exports

Meanwhile, the volume of beef exported from the US has dropped to its lowest levels since 2009, AHDB data shows, falling 8% last year.

During 2015, US beef exports were down by 96,000t on 2014, falling from a 2014 base of 1.2m tonnes.

Fluctuations in the currency markets also had a big impact on the volume of beef exported from the US, as a strong dollar made US beef more expensive to other markets during 2015.