China-driven Brazil beef bonanza seen lasting: Abiec

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian exporters are poised to sell record volumes of beef for two consecutive years, driven by strong demand from China, Abiec, an association of more than 30 Brazilian meat-packing companies, said on Tuesday.

Brazil will export an estimated 1.626 million tonnes of beef in 2018, the highest volume in history, Abiec said. Next year, the figure may be a new record of 1.8 million tonnes, Abiec President Antonio Camardelli said at a news conference.

“China is and will remain the main export destination,” Camardelli said.

China and Hong Kong have imported 44 percent of Brazil’s beef so far in the year, according to an Abiec presentation.

China’s beef imports from Brazil, not including Hong Kong which is booked separately, are expected to rise to 431,000 tonnes in 2019, up from a forecast 328,000 at year-end, Camardelli said.

Next year, beef exports will generate revenues of $7.26 billion, according to Abiec, up from an estimated $6.54 billion in 2018.

The rosy outlook for beef packers in Brazil reflects expectations of resilient Asian demand and the possibility of finding new export destinations.

Brazil is lobbying countries including Japan, South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Indonesia and Taiwan to open up its beef markets.

These nations could potentially buy an additional 300,000 tonnes from Brazil in a given year. The combined value of potential beef sales to these countries would be about $1.7 billion, Camardelli said.

“Japan could open up for Brazilian beef after authorizing imports from Uruguay, which has an identical sanitary status as Brazil,” Camardelli said. “Indonesia is expected to authorize Brazilian beef imports in 2019.”

The United States, which halted Brazilian fresh beef imports in June over safety issues, may soon resume purchases as Brazil has addressed the concerns that were raised.

“We’ve done the homework and provided all guarantees that the products are safe,” Camardelli said, referring to the U.S. ban.

Currently, 16 Brazilian plants are authorized to export beef to China, Abiec said.

A recent delegation of Chinese authorities to Brazil is likely to increase the number of authorized purveyors, Camardelli said, without providing details on that number.

The Chinese delegation visited six plants recently but could, at its discretion, authorize more than that by a process of sampling, he said.

Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Bill Trott and Bernadette Baum