Brazil's beef export hit record, prospects bright on China demand

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazil is poised to break its own beef export record next year as it boosts trade ties with Asia, tries to enter the Japanese market for fresh beef and expands sales to Russia, an exporter group said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Employees work at the assembly line of jerked beef at a plant of JBS S.A, the world's largest beef producer, in Santana de Parnaiba, Brazil December 19, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Brazil’s 2019 beef exports reached an estimated 1.828 million tonnes, up from the previous record of 1.643 million tonnes in 2018, according to Abiec.

Next year, volumes are projected to soar 13% to 2.067 million tonnes, it said.

Brazilian sales abroad were bolstered by an outbreak of African swine fever in Asia, which spurred a surge in Chinese beef imports.

The expected rise in Brazilian beef exports next year should come from access to new markets like Japan, which does not yet buy Brazil fresh beef, Antonio Camardelli, head of Abiec, told a press conference.

Local exporters are also keen to keep steady supplies to Asia and expand sales in markets like Russia, which needs to compensate a fall in beef imports from Argentina, Camardelli said.

Brazil currently has nine beef exporting plants approved by Russia, but that number may rise to 15 as early as February following Argentina’s move to redirect sales to more lucrative China, Camardelli said.

Also, a U.S. mission could come to Brazil in the first quarter to discuss cattle vaccination standards, which could potentially reopen its market for Brazil’s fresh beef imports, he said.

The estimated value of Brazil’s 2019 beef exports was $7.449 billion whereas next year it could reach $8.568 billion, according to Abiec projections.

Abiec noted that Brazilian beef suppliers authorized to sell to China rose from 15 in August to 37 in December.

Brazilian beef exports to China could become even more competitive if Beijing lowers or removes a 24% import levy on South American meat.

Camardelli said Abiec commissioned a study on the matter, the findings of which will eventually be shared with the Brazilian government to guide it in future trade negotiations with China and other countries.

Between January and November 2019, Brazil’s beef exports to China totaled 410,444 tonnes, up 39.5%, Abiec said.

New suppliers may be authorized after Chinese officials visit Brazil from Dec. 15 to help local meat-packers handle the necessary documentation, he said.

Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Nick Macfie and Lisa Shumaker