January 15, 2014


China becomes top buyer of Uruguayan meat



China has become Uruguay's main client for beef, followed by Nafta countries, (US, Canada and Mexico), according to the latest release from the country's National Meat Institute, INAC.


In 2013, Uruguay's meat exports fell 6.5% in volume compared to 2012, with beef representing 80% of the total Uruguay meat exports, last year overseas sales were down 7% in dollars and in volume. On the other hand lamb and mutton soared 24% in dollars and 29% in volume, compared to 2012. However ovine meat only represents 6% of all Uruguayan meat exports.


After eight years of negotiations, the opening of the US market for Uruguayan produce was attributable to the increase in lamb and mutton.


Regarding the main buyers, China leads, displacing Nafta, the EU, Russia and Mercosur. China took 26% of all Uruguayan meat exports.


According to INAC in 2013, meat exports and sub-products totalled 418.123 tonnes equivalent to US$1.665 billion. Likewise the number of cattle head slaughtered last year to December 28 reached 1.973.990, which represents a 5% drop compared to 2012.


A conflict is growing between Uruguay cattle farmers and the abattoirs as international meat prices tend to flatten. With a good spring rainfall and abundant pasture, farmers are not willing to sell at the prices offered by abattoirs (mostly in the hands of Brazilian groups), and the supply of some popular cuts such as barbecue have fallen.


Uruguayan president Jose Mujica in his daily radio chat has warned about the growing Chinese dependency of Uruguay's foreign trade. In effect, soy and beef are among the main export produce of the country and the leading buyer is China.

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