Total beef exports were up 16.8 percent year over year in July contributing to a year-to-date increase of 15 percent for the first seven months of the year. Japan, the largest beef export market, had a monthly increase of 12.9 percent and is up 7.5 percent for the year to date. No. 2 market South Korea continues a very strong pace, up 61.1 percent year over year in July and up 45 percent so far this year. Beef exports to third largest market Mexico increased 17.1 percent year over year in July and are up an even 10 percent for the January to July period. Canada, the No. 4 beef export market, was down 1 percent in July and is holding to a scant 0.7 percent year-to-date increase over last year. No. 5 market Hong Kong is worrisome. After increasing January through March, monthly exports to Hong Kong have decreased year over year for the last four months capped by a 32.6 percent year-over-year decrease in July. Year-to-date totals for Hong Kong are still up 5.6 percent but declining fast.
Asian markets account for nearly two-thirds of U.S. beef exports so far this year with Japan (28.4 percent of total exports) and South Korea (20.2 percent) totaling 48.6 percent total exports. Hong Kong (9.5 percent); Taiwan (5.6 percent) and Vietnam (0.9 percent) bring the total exports to Asia up to 64.6 percent. Mexico at 14.1 percent and Canada at 9.9 percent shares make the North American total 24 percent of U.S. beef exports. The top seven export markets represent 87.7 percent of total exports so far this year.
U.S. beef imports were down 1.9 percent year over year in July and are up fractionally at 0.5 percent above last year for the first seven months of the year. Canada, by a slim margin is the largest source of beef imports, up 1.1 percent in July and up 8.4 percent year over year so far this year. Slightly behind Canada is New Zealand, up 3.5 percent in July and up 7.7 percent for the year to date. Australia, the largest source of beef imports from 2012 to 2016, dropped to second place in 2017 and is in third place this year, still struggling with drought effects. Australia is experiencing severe drought again this year and is expected to struggle in 2019 as well. Beef imports from Australia were down 7.5 percent year over year in July and are up slightly from last year by 0.8 percent for the year to date. Mexico is the fourth largest source of beef imports, down 14.7 percent in July and down 14.9 percent so far this year. Nicaragua is the fifth largest source of beef imports this year and is up 6.1 percent year over year in July and up 13.6 percent thus far in 2018.
Canada (24.7 percent) and New Zealand (24.4 percent) account for nearly half of U.S. beef imports (49.1 percent) followed by Australia (20.9 percent) and Mexico (16.1 percent) for a top four total of 86.1 percent of total beef imports. Central and South America add another 12.5 percent to beef imports with Nicaragua (4.6 percent), Brazil (4.3 percent) and Uruguay (3.6 percent). The top seven import markets account for 98.6 percent of U.S. beef imports thus far in 2018.