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Mercosur beef exports up by 6% in first half of 2018

Demand from China boosted beef exports from the Mercosur countries in the first six months of 2018.

Figures for the half-year period show a total volume of beef exports of 970,000 tonnes, which represents an increase of 6% compared to the same period in 2017. Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina all increased their export volumes, although Mercosur’s fourth beef exporter, Paraguay, did not.

Commentators have said a surge in exports from Argentina was particularly noteworthy. With high demand and controlled prices in the domestic market, Argentina has long been the lowest-volume Mercosur exporter of beef.

President Mauricio Macri’s determination to have a more open economy has clearly led to a change. Its beef exports from January to June this year reached a total volume of 142,000 tonnes. This is an increase of 48% compared to Argentina’s figures for the same time last year.

In the first six months of the year, Brazil and Uruguay exported more than Argentina, but packers in Uruguay have commented that the rapid rise in export volumes from Argentina could propel it to second place before the end of 2018.

In terms of value, the average price per tonne for these exports was $4,590, which is 2.4% higher than the corresponding figure for 2017. Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay achieved increases in the average price per tonne of 6%, 1% and 3% respectively. However, Argentina’s average price per tonne fell by 7%. Argentina still has the highest export price of the four countries, but has shipped a higher volume of lower-quality cuts than in previous years.

China is the largest market for Mercosur beef exports by some margin. Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina are all able to ship beef directly to China. Paraguay does not have direct market access to China, but commentators believe a large proportion of shipments of Paraguayan beef to Vietnam and Hong Kong end up in China.

Image: JBS

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