Livestock & Feed Bussiness Worldwide: October / November 2017
From feed trough to meat exporter: The changing role of the Americas in world agribusiness
by Eric J. BROOKS
From the moment Europeans settled in the Americas, agribusiness has played a huge role in their economy and the way the world sees them. Lately, however, the world is seeing North and South American agribusiness in a different light.
From the mid-1990s through the late 2000s, the Americas turned into China and Southeast Asia's livestock feed trough. Exports of soybeans to China, corn and soymeal to Southeast Asia led to feed cost inflation and in many cases, reinvented how agribusiness made money. In America’s Midwest, Brazil’s Cerrado and Argentina's pampas, cattle ranches gave way to fields of soybeans, mostly destined for China. The accompanying graph shows that up to the late 2000s, China’s imports of soybeans grew faster than that of any protein line.
In the late 2000s however, world agribusiness shifted gears. For a variety of reasons, nations as diverse as China, Vietnam and Indonesia often found it often more logical to import finished proteins than feed materials. Imports of corn and soybeans and meal continue to grow at a healthy
clip but for the last ten years, they have been overshadowed by skyrocketing imports of beef, pork, chicken and other proteins. China remains the largest soybean importer but it is now the world’s largest pork importer - and will soon become the world’s biggest beef buyer too.
As the Americas turned their attention from supplying raw feed inputs to exporting protein, their meat lines evolved with these trends. With this in mind, we look more closely at North and South America’s role in three meat lines where the New World dominates: Pork, poultry and beef.
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