As corn harvest hits about 50% completion this week, reports that U.S. meat exports remain strong should help support corn prices that are always under pressure as combines roll.

Overall strong demand for U.S. beef and pork can’t take all the pressure off harvest time corn prices, which saw December 2013 futures close at about $4.40 per bushel on Friday. But that demand has likely provided some help in keeping futures prices from dipping below $4 as quickly as some had anticipated.

The latest export numbers show strength for the beef and pork industries, which consume billions of bushels of U.S. corn every year. The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) reported Friday that beef exports are up 1% in volume, at 767,017 metric tons, and 10% in value, at $4.01 billion heading into fall.

USMEF says pork exports were supported in August by the largest sales to the China-Hong Kong region since February, as well as strong performances by the Central America, South America and Association of Southeast Asia Nation (ASEAN) regions. Total 2013 pork exports remain stable, but down 4.6% in volume, 1.4 million metric tons, and 4.5% in value at $3.94 billion.

Demand for U.S. beef has steadily increased the past 10 years after the BSE scare in December 2003. It took a lot of marketing savvy by USMEF, USDA, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and beef processors to prove the safeness of U.S. beef worldwide. Promotion supported by the U.S. Beef Checkoff has also helped open more markets.

Phil Seng, USMEF president and CEO, says beef and pork exports would be higher if not for the continued absence of the Russian market. Due to various trade disagreements, the Russian market has been closed to U.S. beef and pork products since February, Seng says.

 

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USMEF says that excluding Russia, U.S. pork exports to all other markets are only down 1% this year, while beef exports are up 8% in volume and 16% in value. “Challenges appear in many forms, including market closures and disruptions, international competition and product oversupply,” Seng says.

“For example, while the U.S. has enjoyed impressive growth in beef exports to Hong Kong, we remain locked out of the fastest-growing beef market in the world – China. And pressure from our international competitors is a significant factor in other markets, as we see in Japan, the top value export market for pork in the world.”