South American meat exporters took advantage of favourable exchange rates to boost beef exports by 12% last year, according to analysts at Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).
The region exported 1.5 million tonnes of beef in 2012 despite challenges including animal disease, import restrictions and political problems in major markets.
Brazilian exports increased 15% year-on-year to 945,482 tonnes swt, assisted by a depreciation in the Brazilian real and higher levels of production, which made Brazilian beef more competitive in the international market.
Russia remained the primary destination for Brazilian beef, taking 27% of all exports, and shipments to Russia increased 11% year-on-year in 2012, to 253,924 tonnes swt.
Chile and Egypt were growth markets for Brazilian beef, increasing imports by 91% and 37% respectively, although exports to Iran were almost cut in half (down 48%) as the result of “political instability”, said MLA.
Paraguay recovered from a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in late 2011 to export 185,102 tonnes swt of beef in 2012, with exports to Russia increasing by a massive 142% year-on-year to 130,031 tonnes swt. Uruguay saw a 12% lift in export levels compared to 2011, with China and the US increasing intake of Uruguayan beef by 74% and 27% year-on-year respectively. However, exports to Uruguay’s main market, Russia, fell 14%.
Argentina was the only country in the region to see a fall in beef exports, with shipments in the first 11 months of the year down 22% compared to the same period in 2011. This was primarily the result of strict beef export quotas imposed by the Argentinian government to control the price and supply of domestic beef, the MLA analysts said.
According to the MLA, South American was a direct competitor with Australia on the Russian beef market last year. Analysts said the depreciation of the Brazilian real and cheap product from Paraguay helped drive a 41% drop in Australian beef exports to Russia after two strong years of growth.
“The vast majority of beef shipments to Russia are frozen (97% in 2012); with Australian beef largely used for further processing. This beef competes with South American product directly, with importers very price-sensitive, leaving Australian product exposed to any price decreases from South American suppliers,” they added.