January 22, 2021
Argentina's domestic beef consumption falls to historic low
Argentina's annual consumption of beef fell to a historic low of 49.7 kilogrammes per person in 2020.
The drop in beef consumption is attributed to local residents switching to consume chicken and pork and the drop of purchasing power amid the COVID-19 pandemic and high inflation.
According to Argentina's Ciccra meat industry chamber, the country's annual beef consumption per-capita reached an all time high of 100.8 kilogrammes in 1956.
"Our beef consumption has been gradually and slowly falling. It's (likely) that we'll end up with consumption similar to that of the developed countries," said Miguel Schiariti, Ciccra's president, referring to the more moderate consumption of beef in places such as the United States (35 kilogrammes per person) or the European Union (20 kilogrammes).
According to the Mediterranean Foundation's IERAL think tank, the 74.8% year-over-year surge in the price of beef in December is a major factor in locals' decision to turn to alternative meats such as chicken and pork, whose price went up to only 58% and 59% respectively.
Emmanuel Lapetina of Frigorifico La Peña, a beef retailer at Buenos Aires' Mercado Central and close observer of the downward trend in beef consumption, told Efe that the change in preference of meat consumption is strictly related to pricing, saying domestic prices have been affected by beef exports and an overall high inflation rate that ended at 36.1% in 2020.
"People turn to other types of meat depending on the monthly price," Lapetina said.
Schiariti added that there was a slowdown in the beef production process due to rising costs. Cows pastured on land rather than being fattened with cornmeal has contributed to the low supply of beef just when the demand was rising as the economy reopened following months of shutdown due to COVID-19.
In a year of legislative elections, Argentine producers are also concerned that public policies could adversely affect exports and cause inflation.
"There's great fear in the sector that old errors will be repeated," said Schiariti, who recalled that market intervention policies and export quotas imposed in 2008 and 2009 to contain domestic prices caused the country's cattle herd to fall by 20% or 12.5 million heads.
Argentina's current cattle inventory of around 53 million heads shows that half of the lost stock has not been recovered.
Around 29% of the country's beef production is exported, compared to 8% in 2015, the majority to China and roughly 71% is consumed domestically.
- La Prensa Latina Media