Brazil's Minerva sees stronger U.S. demand for beef amid coronavirus closures

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Minerva SA, the largest beef exporter in South America, hopes to further boost foreign sales due to potentially scarce supplies in large producing nations like the United States, Chief Financial Officer Edison Ticle said on Tuesday.

With the closure of meat-processing plants in the United States because of the coronavirus outbreak, the Brazil-based meat producer expects to tap stronger demand in that and other markets.

“We are already feeling the effect of plant closures in the U.S., with higher exports to the U.S. and to countries which used to buy meat from the U.S., and now are coming to us,” Ticle said in an interview.

He noted China had been boosting meat imports as it continues to grapple with fallout from African swine fever, a deadly pig disease that disrupted internal meat supplies starting in the second half of 2018.

Minerva derives 68% of sales in export markets and 32% in domestic markets, Ticle said, referring to the company’s plants in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Colombia, where it currently operates.

The executive did not give a growth forecast for the company’s exports in the coming weeks, but said sales abroad at one point represented 80% of Minerva’s overall business.

Currently, Minerva accounts for about 20% of all beef shipped out of South America, Ticle said.

Minerva posted net profit of 271 million reais ($49 million) in the first quarter, reversing a loss of 31.4 million reais in the same period of 2019.

Net revenue rose 11.8%, to 4.16 billion reais ($757 million).

Reporting by Nayara Figueiredo; Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Bernadette Baum