China in just a year has become Uruguay’s main client for beef absorbing 25% of exports equivalent to 190 million dollars in the last agriculture year (July 2012/June 2013). Uruguay exports totalled 390.000 tons according to the latest release from the country’s Meats Institute, INAC.
“The period was reasonably good in production and quite good in generated value, since total sales reached 1.47 billion dollars”, said Pablo Caputti head of INAC Economic Info and Analysis department. That works out at an average 3.800 dollars per ton.
The surprising news is that during the twelve month period, and particularly in the last half China’s participation has soared removing traditional clients of Uruguay such as Russia which saw its share of market drop from 30% to 10%.
“We started selling offal to China since that is traditional and has a strong demand. But gradually they realized the quality of Uruguayan beef and started to buy hind quarters. They don’t buy the most expensive cuts because Europe still pays more and it is difficult for them to compete with those prices”, said Caputti.
Nevertheless Caputti revealed that Uruguay’s strategy towards China is ‘aggressive’ and it is in the interest of INAC to keep supplying the Asian giant more beef.
“There are several walls to breakthrough and consolidate China and we aspire to sell them the expensive cuts. They are quickly becoming westernized and we are full on that strategy”.
Beef sales to China in 2013 jumped 455% in volume and 522% in value according to INAC stats. Uruguay is the world’s sixth exporter of beef.
As to the rest of the world, Israel and Russia each of them had a 10% volume share of the Uruguayan beef market, while Mercosur and associate countries took about 15%.
The European Union which traditionally represented 20% of exports is down to 15% because of the economic crisis, while the US and Canada took 20%. However despite all this, in value the most important market continues to be the EU with 25% of market share since they buy very expensive and prime cuts.
Caputti also mentioned the growing number of markets to which Uruguayan meats have access, over 120 because of its “privileged sanitary status” with an insignificant risk of ‘mad cow’ disease and no foot and mouth disease outbreaks now for over a decade.
“In effect last year Uruguay managed admission to the Korean market and of the great industrialized countries we are only missing Japan”, said Caputti.
In the period analyzed cattle slaughter by industry reached 2.155.000 head which means the cattle stock is recovering but industry is below its 3 million head capacity. In the coming twelve months the number can be expected to increase to 2.4 million.
In the last agricultural year Uruguay also exported 25.000 to mutton and lamb, which ranks it only behind Australia and New Zealand globally.
Likewise in the twelve months total meats sales reached 1.87 billion dollars, of which 1.47bn beef, 80 million lamb and mutton and 272 million pork, broilers and offal.
Uruguay has a cattle stock of 12 million head and is the only country in the world in which each animal has an identification and is registered meaning any beef cut can be traced to the farm it was born, the farmer and a record all the way through to the butcher’s or supermarket.
Last but not least the average per capita beef consumption in Uruguay reached 60 kilos, to which must be added 19 kilos of chicken and less of pork, according to INAC Domestic Market manager Gabriel Costas.