Covid Affects American Lamb Exports
The American Lamb Board works with the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) to monitor and build export markets for American Lamb. USMEF carries out market access and development activities in more than 90 countries in an effort to increase the value and profitability of US lamb, beef and pork.
In 2019, the American Lamb industry exported 15,732 metric tonnes (Mt) of products including variety meats, a 22% volume increase from 2018. The key export markets for American Lamb in 2019 included Mexico, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Canada. Although exports to Asia in 2019 remained slow, recent access to Taiwan and Japan has created opportunities in high-end foodservice.
In 2020, Covid–19 has impacted American Lamb exports due to the pandemic’s effect on tourism and fine dining in worldwide markets. Foodservice and tourism-dependent markets like the Caribbean, Middle East, Japan, ASEAN and Taiwan were heavily impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns.
Domestically, supply of American Lamb has been disrupted not only by pandemic issues, but by the closure of Mountain States Rosen earlier this year. “We can’t sell into the export market what we are unable to produce and process. This year has brought challenges to all sectors of the American Lamb industry never seen before,” says ALB Chairman Gwen Kitzan, Nisland, SD.
A bright spot in the export picture rests on opportunities in Japan and Taiwan. Similar to the US market, Japan experienced a retail surge as a result of Covid-19 because foodservice options were limited and consumers opted to eat at home. As a result, USMEF shifted ALB 2020 promotional funds in Japan from fine dining and chef education to retail. USMEF partnered with a Japanese retailer to launch new American Lamb products including boneless shoulders and steaks in their 10 stores.
In Taiwan, restaurants adapted to the pandemic by adding additional delivery services to their regular menus. Many households in Taiwan prefer to dine-out instead of cook at home so dine-in services are still expected to rebound because of this strong preference. In 2020, USMEF devoted part of its ALB funding to reach consumers directly via social media. The purpose is to build interest in American Lamb as a top-tier product that deserves high regard at retail and on restaurant menus. USMEF hosts a Facebook page dedicated to educating Taiwan consumers about American Lamb cuts, cooking techniques and collaborates with restaurant partners to feature lamb recipes.
–American Lamb Board