Chinese push drives up beef export price

Last November, the ton of beef from Brazil was sold for 21.6% more than a year ago. Specialists explain how sales to the Chinese may impact other markets, such as the Arabs.

Thais Sousa

São Paulo – Since China accredited more Brazilian meat packers to export beef from the country, the domestic market is not the only one that saw the product prices soar. The increase was also seen in the price of overall beef exports. Last November, the ton of fresh beef was sold for USD 4,857.6, up 21.6% from a year ago.

The figures are from the Ministry of Economy and were made public on December 2 and show an increase in revenue from foreign sales too. Last November, raw beef exports from Brazil reached USD 755.8 million, up 45% from a year ago. Year-on-year, the shipped volume climbed 19.3%, grossing 155,600 tons in November.

For explaining the price rise, researcher in livestock at the Center for Advanced Studies on Applied Economics (Cepea) of Esalq/USP Thiago Bernardino de Carvalho points out domestic factors too. He believes that the low domestic prices over the last three years have discouraged producers to confine cattle, saving investment in feed and corn, which affected the animals’ growth.

“Adding to that, the domestic demand has increased toward the end of the year, when both wholesale and retail stock up for the holidays too. Then came the icing on the cake, which was China, accounting for over 50% of this increase in exports,” Carvalho pointed out.

For the researcher at USP, the turnover in Brazil affects the foreign market. “If our prices rise, so does the price in the international market. Brazil leads the beef market just like Saudi Arabia leads the oil market. Brazil is the one setting the prices. Although the United States are the largest exporter, we have the largest [herd of] cattle,” he pointed out.

But Carvalho said that travels from Brazilian authorities to Arab countries help balancing the market. Last September, the ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, Tereza Cristina, went on a tour to four Arab countries, and last October was president Jair Bolsonaro’s turn to visit the region. Last November, Saudi Arabia accredited another eight Brazilian meat packers to ship beef. This rapport-building trade agreements with Saudi Arabia help keeping the market consistent,” he stated.

He stressed that last October the United Arab Emirates paid 6% more for the product month-on-month. For Saudi Arabia, the raise was 4%. “Brazil can increase its exports volume and quality. I believe Brazil will keep being a major player,” he underscored.

In addition to the domestic scenario, as Safras & Mercado consultant Fernando Henrique Iglesias points out, a Chinese push caused prices to soar all over the world. “China is in a delicate situation due to the African swine fever. It’s the world’s largest consuming market and it’s reaccrediting meat packers not only in Brazil but in other countries as well,” Iglesias pointed out.

But the sales to the Chinese are not expected to impact the product delivery from Brazil to other important markets such as Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. “In volume, it doesn’t impact the Arabs because meat packers prioritize the foreign market. The [dollar] currency for BRL 4.20 reinforces this strategy. Those who perform halal slaughter will maintain [its exports]. The trend for 2020 is focusing on the foreign market. The [export] price is bound to affect the overall market,” Iglesias explained.


Now that the beef price has reached consumers, the trend is choosing other meats. “The retail has found it difficult to resale the product [because of the price]. And the [Brazilian] consumer is choosing poultry and pork instead,” Carvalho pointed out.

The expectation is that this will also be seen in exports, Tendências Consultoria agribusiness analyst Felipe Novaes stressed. “It may not compromise supply. but beef gives the tone for prices. This is already true for the domestic market and has passed on to other meats, such as poultry. The climb in beef prices made the headlines but influences other meats too. Overall, Brazil is a major player for all meats,” Novaes pointed out.

He believes that the market gained strength with the accreditation of more meat packers and many farmers that delayed the slaughter this year won’t have beef to supply in 2020. Tendências’ expectation is that the prices paid for the producer in Q1 2020 will stabilize. This is not saying that prices will fall again. “When real is devaluated, the tendency is increasing the supply of the product from Brazil to the foreign market. Another factor is: beef is lacking around the world. This still tends to keep prices high,” the consultant explained.

Translated by Guilherme Miranda

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