April 2, 2004



Brazil Set To Be World Top Beef Exporter


Brazil is expected to be the world's top beef exporter this year because mad cow disease has sharply slowed U.S. and Canadian shipments, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Thursday.


Brazil is forecast to ship a record 1.35 million tons this year, surpassing Australia as the top beef exporter, the USDA said. Last year, Brazil exported 1.18 million tonnes.


"Brazil has made outstanding strides in increasing its production, which is forecast to grow 4 percent in 2004," the USDA said in its monthly livestock and poultry report.


The December discovery of mad cow disease in the United States, the No. 2 beef exporter last year, prompted more than 60 countries to halt $3.8 billion worth of U.S. beef imports.


The United States is forecast to ship 195,000 tons of beef this year, down from 1.14 million tons in 2003, the USDA said. Canada, Mexico and the Philippines are the only major markets currently buying U.S. beef.


If current markets remain closed to U.S. beef, the USDA estimated the U.S. share of the world beef market this year would fall to 3 percent from 18 percent.


Brazil and Australia, the No. 2 beef exporter this year, were expected to benefit the most from global U.S. beef bans.


Brazil has doubled the number of countries it exports to in recent years and was likely to fill the beef demand in Hong Kong and other smaller markets previously dominated by the United States, the USDA said.


Japan and South Korea, former top buyers of American beef, were likely to turn to Australia to supply additional beef, the USDA said.


Australia is forecast to export 1.3 million tons of beef, up from 1.26 million last year, the USDA said.


U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has made reopening U.S. beef markets a top priority. The USDA last week sent letters to every country that buys American beef, formally requesting that they reopen their borders.


U.S. industry officials said Taiwan and Hong Kong have given indications they may soon ease import restrictions on U.S. beef.


The USDA said the United States would remain the world's top beef importer, buying a record 1.5 million tonnes. That is up from 1.36 million tons last year.


"Consumer demand remains strong, which has helped support prices after the closure of most U.S. export markets, the USDA. said.

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