Growing volumes of U.S. beef are anticipated to begin arriving in the European Union following agreement for a duty-free, high-quality beef quota. An expert with the U.S. Meat Export Federation says a lack of grain-fed beef in the market makes for a big opportunity. Thad Lively, senior vice president of policy, planning and research for USMEF, says the quota might not necessarily mean massive volumes but it does open the door to the highest value end of the market.
The EU has realized it will be a beef importer rather than exporter so it is looking to diversify its sourcing beyond South American suppliers. Under these circumstances, this spring Washington worked out a deal whereby the EU's 20% tariff is eliminated. As a result, Lively says he expects that within the next three to five years, the United States will be sending as much as 70,000 metric tons of beef annually to the EU at prices that are probably twice the average level of prices in the rest of the export markets.
"I think the fact that we're talking about occupying the very top end of the market makes our product and the idea of importing from the U.S. a lot less threatening to European producers," Lively said. "If we were trying to ship a product over there that was going to compete directly with European beef, which is what Brazil, for example, is doing, then clearly European producers start to feel as if they're going to have trouble competing against this inexpensive meat from Brazil. We don't have that problem, because by occupying this niche at top of market, if anything we're going to pull prices up instead of pulling them down."