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Beef imports were up 1.5 percent year over year in April but are down 7.0 percent for the January to April period compared to last year. Year to date beef imports are down 4.0 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Table 1 shows a summary of beef imports in recent years and for the year to date in 2021. U.S. beef imports are projected to decrease in 2021 by 10-13 percent year over year, which will put total beef imports below the 2015 – 2019 average.
In the 2015-2019 period, Australia was the largest source of beef imports, followed by Canada, with New Zealand at number three and Mexico ranked fifth. Brazil, Nicaragua and Uruguay round out the top seven sources of beef imports. From 2015-2019, the top seven countries accounted for 98.7 percent of beef imports with the top four accounting for 85.5 percent of total beef imports. In 2020, beef imports spiked to the highest level since 2015 due the supply chain disruptions resulting from the pandemic.
Thus far in 2021, Canada has been the largest source of beef imports and is up 17.0 percent year over year. Mexico is the number two source of beef imports for the year to date with imports down 6.0 percent compared to last year. New Zealand is the third largest source of beef imports in 2021, down 9.9 percent year over year. Australia is currently the fourth largest source of beef imports, down 48.1 percent from last year. Australia is experiencing reduced production due to herd liquidation in previous years resulting from drought, wildfires and floods. Australia is now attempting to rebuild herds, which further reduces beef production and exports in the short run.
Argentina does not make the list of major sources of U.S. beef imports but the country has rebounded sharply in recent years as a beef exporting country. U.S. imports of beef from Argentina in 2020 were the highest since 2007 but represented less than two percent of total U.S. beef imports. Recently, the government of Argentina announced a 30 day ban on beef exports from the country, which has disrupted the rebuilding of beef exports from the country and is indicative of the challenges faced by the Argentinian beef industry in recent years
Global beef trade continues to grow. Total beef imports by major world importers is expected to increase in 2021 along with increases in total beef exports by major world exporters. U.S. beef exports and imports take place in the context of a much larger and growing global beef market.
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