* Exports down 0.6 percent in 2012
* Brazil is world’s No. 1 chicken meat exporter
* Grain prices blamed for drop in 2012 exports
By Fabiola Gomes
SAO PAULO, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Brazil’s chicken meat exports should increase by about 3 percent this year after falling in 2012 due to high feed costs, the country’s poultry association, Ubabef, said on Tuesday.
The association expects better demand from countries in Asia and Africa and a greater emphasis on processed foods to raise the value of sales and to compensate for high grain prices in the past year in the world’s top chicken meat exporter.
“This year, we want to improve the quality of chicken meat and add value to exports,” said Francisco Turra, president of the Brazilian Poultry Union (Ubabef).
In 2012, more expensive processed chicken products accounted for just 5 percent of Brazil’s total export volume, but that amount could increase as companies like BRF Brasil Foods and Marfrig bet on processed products.
Turra said he expected increasing demand from emerging markets in Africa to boost sales in 2013. Brazil also hopes to conquer Asian markets like India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Brazil accounts for 39.7 percent of the world’s chicken exports, followed by the United States with 32.5 percent. Brazil lost a bit of market share last year, as it had accounted for 41.4 percent of global exports in 2011.
Brazil’s chicken production in 2012 fell 3.17 percent from 2011 to 12.645 million tonnes, Ubabef said. It was the first year output had fallen since 2000. Exports in 2012 were down 0.6 percent from 2011.
Grain prices rose to record levels mid-way through last year after drought slashed production in the United States, the world’s top producer of soy and corn, driving up the cost of poultry feed.
Turra said he believed grain prices would remain firm for the first half of 2013 despite expectations for a record Brazilian soybean harvest and a strong corn harvest to hit international markets soon.
In August, Turra reported that 20 of the association’s 80 members, who range from small producers to large international exporters, were in financial difficulties because of the cost of feed.