Beef Buzz News
Middle East Expanding, Changing Market for U.S. Meat Export Federation
Fri, 28 Sep 2012 14:08:51 CDT
Ron Hays talks with Dan Halstrom about meat exports to the Middle East.
Dan Halstrom, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior vice president for global marketing and communications, is in the Middle East this week to meet with USMEF’s representatives in the region as well as with buyers and traders of U.S. beef. With U.S. beef sales expanding rapidly in a section of the globe that stretches all the way from West Africa to Kazakhstan. He says the region truly is in transition.
“The really exciting part about the Middle East right now is the expansion away from just variety meats. There’s still a big market for variety meats-livers, hearts, kidneys-but the emerging area is the muscle cuts. Five years ago 95 percent of our value was variety meats. Last year 60 percent of our value was muscle cuts, 40 percent of the value was variety meats. So, what’s happening is we’re starting to diversify into many different cuts all across the region,” Halstrom said.
He also said that social and political unrest in the Middle East has done very little to slow demand for U.S. beef.
“The unrest, from a humanitarian standpoint, is unfortunate, but the reality is that their desires for higher levels of protein continue to increase. And that’s where U.S. beef, high quality grain-fed beef, comes in.”
Through July, beef exports to the region are down slightly in volume (about 201 million pounds) but are still 8 percent ahead of last year’s record pace in terms of value at $202 million. The region has long been a mainstay market for U.S. variety meats such as livers, hearts and kidneys, and those exports are up nearly 20 percent in value to $92 million. Beef muscle cut exports to the Middle East have grown impressively in recent years - and though volume has slipped in 2012, muscle cut export value is still slightly higher than last year at $110 million.
Halstrom says one of the reasons muscle cut export volume is lower this year has been lack of access to Saudi Arabia, which is the only foreign market to have closed to U.S. beef as a result of the April 24 BSE case detected in California. He notes that this market closure has been particularly frustrating for some small U.S. companies that specialize in serving Saudi Arabia, and USMEF is working with U.S. trade officials to regain access.
“Some of our smaller to middle sized members specialize in only the Middle East. There’s several of these members that are disproportionately focused on Saudi. So, yes, they’ve been hurt with millions of dollars of losses. The ironic thing is that the Middle East, for the most part, the entire region is open with unfettered access to all cattle of all ages with the exception of Saudi Arabia. Saudi was a very good market and we’re starting to lose some of that share now because we’re several months without access and some of our global competitors are starting to get some of that business.
“So, I know it’s high on the radar for our industry to regain access into Saudi. It’s high on the USDA’s radar as well. In Washington we’ve been working with them and, hopefully, they can make some breakthroughs with their counterparts on the Saudi side.
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