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USMEF Conference Concludes with Focus on Korea

Dan Beef, Cattle, Exports/Imports, Trade

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The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Strategic Planning Conference and Board of Directors Meeting took place last week in Carlsbad, Calif. The event wrapped up Saturday with a session focused on U.S. red meat’s success in South Korea.

The conference marked the 45th anniversary of the founding of USMEF and 30 years since it established an office in Seoul, South Korea. Jihae Yang has guided the Korea operation for much of that time, becoming that director in 2006. She gave USMEF members a recap of some of the factors leading to U.S. red meat’s tremendous growth in Korea, which will be a $2 billion destination for U.S. beef exports for the first time this year. High-value chilled exports to Korea are achieving explosive growth, with chilled beef export value up 50% year-over-year and chilled pork volume nearly tripling from a year ago. She explained that booming retail demand has been the main growth driver in Korea, with consumers seeking more high-quality protein options to prepare at home.

During the Conference, there was also a panel discussion focusing on the obstacles U.S. exporters face when moving chilled and frozen product through West Coast ports. The session featured insights from Port of Long Beach Chief Operating Officer Noel Hacegaba and veteran logistics journalist Bill Mongelluzzo, trans-Pacific senior editor at Journal of Commerce.

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Both cautioned it is difficult to estimate when U.S. exporters will see significant improvement in the shipping industry’s ability to move their cargo to overseas destinations. Projections range from early 2022, when the Lunar New Year holidays tend to slow the volume of imports arriving at U.S. ports, to late 2022 or early 2023. The uncertainty is a growing concern for international customers who rely on prompt delivery of U.S. beef and pork.

USMEF members approved a resolution pledging to work with meat and livestock industry partners to seek solutions to current logistical challenges across the supply chain.

The election of new USMEF officers was also announced. Mark Swanson, chief executive officer of Colorado-based Birko Corporation, is the new USMEF chairman, succeeding Pat Binger of Cargill Protein North America. Since joining USMEF in 2008, Swanson said Birko has benefited significantly from the federation’s expertise and from the contributions exports make to the growth and profitability of the U.S. red meat industry.

Highlights from the Conference are available on the USMEF website.