November 11, 2019
Chinese demand for beef drains Uruguay's domestic supply
Uruguay -- which was described as South America's biggest consumer of beef per person -- is now forced to import beef for the first time due to rising demand from demand for high-end gourmet meat, CGTN reported.
The country is bringing in beef from neighbouring nations, namely, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. Uruguay's most common meal is a classic barbecue beef called "asado," but the most popular cuts are becoming difficult to find in the country.
"That is because of the exports to China. When they ask for the meat, the best quality goes to them", said Joaquin Gonzalez manager of El Palenque, a Montevideo barbecue restaurant, who is still selling homegrown beef.
Uruguay has huge expanses of natural pasture, where cattle are 100% grass-fed. By law, hormone and antibiotics are not used in rearing them and and every local cow is monitored.
The country's largest meat plant, Breeders & Packers of Uruguay, BPU, employs more than 700 workers who process about 800 cows per day. It is one of the principal businesses benefiting from the growing Chinese demand.
"We export a little bit above 40,000 tonnes each year, and it is approximately 200 million dollars with China being by far our most important market," said Camilo Giucci, BPU's commercial manager.
According to Uruguay's National Beef Institute, in the past year, there's been a 30% increase in the volume of beef exports to China. This trend is linked mainly to Chinese pork shortage caused by the ongoing African swine fever outbreak in the country, said the institute's marketing director, Lautaro Perez.
"The result is that we have to increase imports of beef, almost fifteen and it is going up, up and probably 20% of our consumption will be imported beef," Perez added.