Global Beef Exports Held Steady in 2016

Beef exports from the world’s 11 main suppliers totaled about 7.3 million metric tons (mt) in 2016, about even with 2015 and still down from the 2014 record of 7.77 million mt. The United States had the largest year-over-year growth of the top four exporters, with U.S. export volume increasing 11 percent to 1.19 million mt, valued at $6.34 billion (+1 percent). A full summary of 2016 U.S. beef exports is available in this USMEF news release.

Top Beef Beef Variety Meat Exporters

The U.S. was the world’s largest exporter on a value basis in 2016, surpassing Australia’s $6.04 billion. Overall beef export value for the top 11 dropped again, to about $31.7 billion, down 6 percent from 2015 and 14 percent below the 2014 record. Unit export values for all major exporters fell in 2016, but for the U.S. this was more of an adjustment following significant increases in prices in 2014-2015. For South American suppliers the decline was more dramatic, as many of their main export markets continued to struggle from relatively slow economic growth, low oil prices and weak currencies.

Among other major beef exporters, the most significant shift was the large decline in Australia’s exports, as the Australian industry entered a period of major, post-drought herd rebuilding. Australia’s 2016 beef/beef variety meat exports totaled 1.2 million mt, down 19 percent from the large volumes posted in 2015. But 2016 exports were still up 5 percent compared to 2012, prior to Australia’s drought-induced surge in beef production. Australia’s exports were lower year-over-year to most major markets, including Japan (286,266 mt, -6 percent), the United States (243,861 mt, -42 percent), China (106,128 mt, -33 percent), the Middle East (42,425 mt, -43 percent), the European Union (20,369 mt, -15 percent) and Canada (19,428 mt, -55 percent). Exports trended higher for South Korea (215,303 mt, +7 percent), Indonesia (82,851 mt, +99 percent), Taiwan (33,834 mt, +3 percent), and the Philippines (36,509 mt, +11 percent). Looking specifically at chilled beef, 2016 exports were down 15 percent to 277,721 mt. However, Australia’s 2016 grain-fed exports declined just 1 percent from the 2015 record, totaling 260,000 mt.

India was 2016’s volume leader with exports through November up 4 percent to 1.22 million mt. Despite the increase in volume, export value fell 3 percent to $3.6 billion. Vietnam (563,803 mt, +18 percent) accounted for 46 percent of India’s total volume, up from 40 percent in 2015. Exports to Egypt also increased 18 percent to 118,887 mt, while exports were lower to Malaysia (113,207 mt,-10 percent). A major development for India was its ability to export to Indonesia, with shipments starting in August and exceeding 56,000 mt through November. But access to Indonesia is now in limbo following a court ruling that questioned the process Indonesian regulators used when opening the market to imports from India.

Brazil’s exports ended 2016 steady with the previous year, with a slowdown in the second half (due in part to a strengthening currency) offsetting strong early results. Brazil’s exports totaled 1.32 million mt, with solid growth to top market China/Hong Kong (440,270 mt, +53 percent) and increases to Chile, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore. These gains were offset by lower exports to Egypt, Russia, the EU, Iran and Venezuela.

Canada’s exports were up 12 percent year-over-year to 360,587 mt. Exports were sharply higher to the United States (270,540 mt, +17 percent) – which is still Canada’s dominant export market, accounting for 75 percent of total volume. U.S. net imports of Canadian beef moved higher in 2016 (153,557 mt, +45 percent), due in part to the strong U.S. dollar. Canada’s exports to Hong Kong more than doubled in 2016 (23,700 mt, +120 percent), but this was not enough to offset a large slowdown to China (6,564 mt, -80 percent). Exports to Japan gained momentum (20,660 mt, +44 percent) and Canada also shipped more beef to Peru, the Philippines and Chile, but exports slowed to Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Canada’s exports to Korea reached 7,040 mt, after being out of the market much of the previous year. After regaining access in August, exports to Taiwan were about 900 mt.

New Zealand’s exports slowed in 2016, decreasing 7 percent to 463,266 mt, although exports were still above 2014 levels. Exports to the U.S. were lower (195,337 mt, -14 percent), but still accounted for 42 percent of export volume. Exports also declined to China, Canada, and the EU, but were larger for Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia and Australia.

Uruguay’s 2016 exports were record-large at 348,587 mt, up 17 percent and surpassing the 2006 record by 4 percent. Although export value ($1.55 billion) was just short of the 2014 record, Uruguay’s unit export value was down nearly 14 percent, partly driven by surprisingly large production. China was the dominant market, taking 51 percent of Uruguay’s export volume at 176,791 mt (+26 percent). The EU moved into the No. 2 slot at 41,647 mt (+12 percent) with Uruguay currently being the largest beneficiary of the EU’s duty-free grain-fed quota. Exports were also larger to Israel, Brazil and Canada, but lower to Russia and the United States.

Paraguay’s exports increased 2 percent to 306,449 mt, led by growth to neighboring markets Chile and Brazil, as well as Vietnam and Israel. These gains were mostly offset by lower exports to Russia, Kuwait, Iraq, Hong Kong and Gabon.

Argentina’s government recently took another step forward in support of exports by reinstating export refunds (ranging from 2.5 to 4 percent of export value), but this policy was not yet in effect in 2016. Argentina’s 2016 exports were up 9 percent year-over-year to 253,434 mt. This included strong growth in frozen exports to China and chilled exports to the EU. But Argentina’s herd-rebuilding continues to limit overall production and exports and is putting upward pressure on prices, despite a weaker peso.


After slowing in 2015, China/Hong Kong’s combined imports set a new record in 2016 at 1.26 million mt, up 15 percent year-over-year, valued at $5.15 billion, up 6 percent. Growth was led by a 50 percent increase from Brazil, which regained access to China in mid-2015. Imports also increased from Uruguay, Argentina and Canada, while declining from other major suppliers including Australia, the U.S., and New Zealand. China’s total imports increased by 22 percent to just over 600,000 mt, following a 56 percent increase in 2015. But demand seemed to cool somewhat late in the year as China’s imports dropped below year-ago levels in September, October and December. Although Australia’s total exports to China slowed in 2016, its grain-fed exports to China were up 9 percent to 23,560 mt, reflecting continued strong demand for grain-fed beef in China.

Japan’s beef/beef variety meat imports were up nearly 3 percent in 2016 to 578,573 mt, valued at $3.5 billion (+2 percent). Growth was led by the United States, with U.S. market share climbing from 35 percent to 40 percent. The U.S. also captured its largest-ever chilled market share at 44 percent. Japan’s imports from Australia were lower year-over-year while imports were steady from New Zealand. Among smaller suppliers, imports from Canada climbed 45 percent while volume from Mexico dropped 30 percent.

Korea’s imports set a new record in 2016, reaching 403,161 mt, up 22 percent. Import value was $2.28 billion, up 14 percent. The U.S. led the tonnage increase as imports were up 46 percent, pushing U.S. market share to 42 percent of import volume – up from 35 percent in 2015. Korea’s per capita consumption increased significantly again in 2016, reaching 11.6 kilograms (product weight), adding a full kg since 2014 and up 17 percent since 2012.

Taiwan’s beef imports were also record-large in 2016 – led by its largest-ever imports of U.S. beef. Total imports were up 14 percent to 110,268 mt, as imports also increased from Australia and New Zealand. Taiwan’s imports from the U.S. were a record 43,099 mt, up 22 percent, with strong growth in both chilled and frozen beef. U.S. beef accounted for 67 percent of Taiwan’s chilled imports and 39 percent of total imports.

NOTE: Export and import totals based on Global Trade Atlas data and USMEF estimates