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USMEF Strategic Planning Conference Underway
USAgNet - 11/08/2018

The U.S. Meat Export Federation opened its annual strategic planning conference this weekwith a status report on the current state of U.S. beef, pork and lamb exports, followed by a discussion of the key trade policy issues shaping the outlook for exports in 2019 and beyond.

USMEF Chair Dennis Stiffler began with an overview of U.S. lamb production, demand and exports. Stiffler is president of the Texas Division of Halperns' Steak and Seafood and CEO emeritus of Mountain States Rosen, a fabricator, processor and distributor of lamb and veal products. He noted that lamb exports struggled in 2017 but have rebounded this year, mainly due to an uptick in lamb variety meat shipments to Mexico. Access to the Japanese market, which recently reopened to U.S. lamb for the first time in 15 years, is "a real game-changer" for the lamb industry, Stiffler added.

"Since the market opening was announced, there has been a great deal of buyer interest in U.S. lamb," Stiffler explained. "There are now four U.S. plants approved for export to Japan, and USMEF is preparing for its first major lamb event. On Nov. 28 in Tokyo, there will be a USMEF educational seminar for chefs, importers, purveyors and media."

Stiffler also spotlighted two significant success stories for U.S. red meat: the surge in pork exports to Central America and the Dominican Republic and the remarkable growth in U.S. beef exports to Taiwan. He noted that the Central America-Dominican Republic-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement helped unlock the potential for U.S. pork in the region and the industry has capitalized in a big way. Exports to the Dominican Republic have already set a new record in 2018 and volumes to all seven Central American countries are up by double digits this year. Though relatively small in population, seven of the eight countries in the region are now top 20 markets for U.S. pork.

2017 was a record-breaking year for U.S. beef in Taiwan, with exports exceeding $400 million for the first time, and Stiffler said momentum continues to build.

"Beef exports to Taiwan will break the $500 million milestone this year, meaning that export value will have doubled in just the past five years," he said. "And the U.S. dominates the chilled beef market in Taiwan, capturing a 75 percent share."

Attendees also heard from Kevin Kester, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). A fifth-generation rancher from Parkfield, Calif., Kester welcomed USMEF members to the Golden State with a call for unity among meat and livestock industry stakeholders at a time of significant uncertainty and volatility in international trade.

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