Rumours of pretty strong Canadian beef exporter numbers for early 2019 weren’t an exaggeration as Statistics Canada’s official numbers puts January exports at a pedal to the metal pace.

Confirming what the market heard anecdotally, StatsCan says beef exports to the Asia region in January were up 22 per cent year-over-year. Japan accounted for a big part of that jump, with exports up 75 per cent, for fresh, frozen, and offal, “It’s the best January ever,” says Anne Wasko, with the Gateway Livestock Exchange.

Exports to China were also on pace for late 2018 and January ended up with a 120 per cent increase over the same month in 2018.

Wasko says the numbers themselves are impressive, but the key here is that it’s the same or slightly above the pace of how we ended 2018. The bottom line is there is strong demand into these geographies for beef even at a 38.5 per cent tariff, and that’s set to drop in the months ahead because of the CPTPP deal.

Exports to the U.S. also gained, ending up 16% above last year, at 24,000 tonnes. Conversely, America’s exports are actually down about 3 per cent year-over-year, Wasko says, but projections are still up for the balance of the year. If that does happen, most will happen in the last half of the year. “But they’re going to have to pick up the pace,” she added.

There were some surprising numbers for feeder cattle heading north, too, as cattle numbers from U.S. into Canada topped out at 20,000 head, a big jump over the more typical 6,000+ we saw last year, Wasko says. Feeder cattle imports coming into terminal yards isn’t rare, but it’s much more typical during the fall run. It’s good news and shows real strength in the Canadian cattle market, she says.

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