Dan Halstrom, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) president and CEO, just returned from a series of meetings in Mexico with importers, processors and other key customers of U.S. red meat.
Halstrom says that despite a 20% retaliatory duty on most U.S. pork entering Mexico and growing concern that the Mexican government could eventually retaliate against more U.S. agricultural products, customers remain cautiously optimistic and upbeat.
He notes that one of the main objectives of the trip was to reassure customers about the reliability of the U.S. red meat supply chain. They were also interested to learn more about U.S. industry efforts to build support for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and removal of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Mexico.
Halstrom points out that U.S. beef exports to Mexico posted a solid first quarter, with combined beef/beef variety meat volume increasing 1% from a year ago to 57,591 metric tons (mt) while value jumped 12% to $280.2 million. This included a strong increase in beef muscle cut exports, which were up 14% in volume (35,481 mt) and 16% in value ($220.7 million).
Pork exports haven't fared as well in 2019, with first quarter volume down 13% year-over-year to 177,420 mt, while value declined 29% to $261.9 million. Halstrom explains that while the U.S. is still Mexico’s primary supplier of imported pork, Canada, Chile and the European Union are gradually gaining market share and Mexico’s domestic pork production is also trending higher.