Port of Oakland beef exports—almost exclusively to Asia—increased 25% this year between January and July. Those at the Port called the surge extraordinary in a year when shipping disruptions have hobbled global supply chains. Oakland exported the equivalent of 25,200 20-foot containers of beef through July. The number for the same period last year was 20,100. Oakland estimated the total value of beef exports at $1.5 billion in the first seven months of 2021.
Asian markets have received nearly all of the beef exported from Oakland this year as measured by container volume. The percentage breakdown by country:
China, (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), 24%
South Korea, 19%
Those at the Port say soaring demand for U.S. beef in China is driving the export boom. American-produced beef accounts for 5% of all containerized exports to China. COVID-related restrictions on restaurant dining have sparked a jump in Asian retail beef sales, and surging beef exports validate its investments in the international cold chain.
Oakland has significantly expanded chilled and frozen cargo handling capacity in the past five years. California and Midwest producers ship tons of beef to Oakland in rail cars. Product transfers at the temperature-controlled storage facilities in the heart of the Oakland Seaport to containers, then moves down the street to waiting ships.
Oakland is a principal U.S. gateway for beef exports to Asia. That’s because most ships make Oakland their final North American stop before returning to Asia. Beef spends less time on board a ship if it’s loaded in Oakland rather than at other American ports.
Those at the Port credited U.S. beef producers with sustaining the export boom despite shipping woes. Shortages of containers and vessel space have restricted exports throughout 2021. Shortages of refrigerated containers—essential for beef shipments—have been particularly acute. Beef exporters displayed diligence in finding the means to get cargo on ships.
About the Port of Oakland
The Port of Oakland oversees the Oakland Seaport, Oakland International Airport, and nearly 20 miles of waterfront including Jack London Square. The Port's 5-year strategic plan - Growth with Care - pairs business expansion with community benefits, envisioning more jobs and economic stimulus as the Port grows. Together with its business partners, the Port supports more than 84,000 jobs.