April 5, 2006


Brazil unaffected by small drop in world chicken consumption



A drop in world chicken consumption in nations hit with the deadly bird flu virus has yet to have any major impact on Brazil, the world's leading chicken exporter, according to government export data released Monday (Apr 3).


Members of Brazil's chicken industry associations, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, said they were surprised by a rise in chicken exports in March in comparison to February.


Brazilian chicken exporters shipped some 213,300 tonnes of fresh chicken meat to world markets in March, compared with 190,300 tonnes in February.


"The numbers are better than we expected. But we are not out of the woods yet. The problem (with bird flu) persists," said Ricardo Goncalves, president of the Brazilian Association of Chicken Exporters (ABEF).


Prices have also risen in comparison to March 2005, up 3.5 percent to US$1,117.90 per tonne despite massive drops in consumption in major chicken import markets like Russia, where bird flu scares have resulted in Russian consumers buying less poultry meat.


Brazil chicken exports lost some steam in January and December 2005, with international prices falling by 16 percent since December, Goncalves said at a press conference Tuesday.


As a result, chicken producers have reduced meat production by 15 percent to as much as 25 percent in order to control expanding chicken stocks.


Goncalves said Brazil has roughly 230,000 tonnes of chicken sitting in cold storage.


Local prices have also fallen as exporters have been selling more of their chicken products to local supermarkets in recent months.


Contrary to countries like Italy and France, where consumption has fallen by as much as 60 percent initially because of bird flu, Brazilian chicken consumption is on the rise. And that's good news for exporters trying to get rid of product that, until now, has had some difficulty finding international buyers.


Chicken consumption rose to 40 kg per person in the first three months of the year, compared with 34 kg on average in 2005.


"The first quarter of the year was a stock readjustment period. If there are no new cases of bird flu reported, and if it does not arrive in the US especially, the second half of the year will see more production and more exports," Goncalves said.


According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, global chicken exports should be around 8.1 million tonnes, 500,000 tonnes less than 2005.


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