U.S. beef exports to drop in 2015 on high prices, tight supply

U.S. beef exports will decline in 2015, as tight supplies, high prices and a strong dollar constrict demand from buyers holding other currencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in Friday.

Exports will likely fall 4.8 percent to 2.5 billion pounds this year, USDA said during its annual Agriculture Outlook Forum.

"The dollar is expected to remain strong relative to importing country currencies, implying that any increases in U.S. beef prices will be more fully transmitted to foreign buyers" the agency said.

Beef imports by the United States are forecast to drop to 2.8 billion pounds, down 4.6 percent from a record high in 2014. Imports will be suppressed by the tighter supplies in other countries like Australia, where inventory is expected to decline this year due to severe drought.

Improved pastures, higher beef prices and increased consumer demand encouraged U.S. cattle ranchers to grow their herds in 2014 for the first time in seven years after persistent drought hurt crops.

The USDA also said the cattle herd will continue to expand in 2015, a second consecutive year of growth fueled by less-costly feed and record-high prices for slaughter-ready cattle in 2014.