To the list of the top 10 nations in the world in meat production, the Latin American region contributes three countries: Brazil, second only behind the USA, is followed by Argentina in sixth place and Mexico in eighth. This scale includes all the production of meat products from all subsectors of the category. Fast-growing nations with extremely large consumer markets — such as China and Russia — are looking at the quality-price ratio of Latin American meat products, therefore increasing demand and economic opportunities for Latin American processors.

In beef, a potential agreement with the European Union for the tax reduction of exports to Europe has been slow to gain acceptance. Strong opposition of countries such as Ireland and France, which would see their beef production threatened by the competitive prices coming especially from Brazil and Uruguay, has delayed closure of the agreement. Although it was expected that the recent congress of the G20 in Buenos Aires would lead to the conclusion of the treaty, the change of government in Brazil has prevented it from reaching a successful conclusion. The agreement proposes, in principle, the elimination of tax barriers for some 70,000 tons of meat from the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay).

In turn, the countries that make up the Trans Pacific Partnership (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam) signed an agreement last March, known as CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement), which will allow for the opening of markets for meat products with special emphasis on opportunities for value-added products. This agreement, which also affects other parts of the food and beverage sector, creates the largest free trade zone in the world, and includes three countries within the Latin American region.



The sector in Argentina continues down the path toward recovering the lost ground in the last decade. Both public institutions and the private sector aim to increase production as a way to boost the sector in production and exports. The government’s recent measures through refunds to expedite the sector’s economic development have coincided with the increase in purchases from Russia and China, in addition to a slight rebound in the value of the local currency. According to President Macri, it is expected that the industry can generate 100,000 jobs in just a few years, both direct and indirectly tied to the industry. During the first five months of 2018, the exported volume of Argentine beef was 121,600 tons, which represents the highest volume of the last nine years, according to data from Argentina’s Chamber of the Meat Industry.

China has become the main buyer of meat from Argentina, importing 61,000 tons of meat. This figure represents a percentage growth of 102 percent over the previous year. The second largest purchaser of Argentine beef in terms of volume is Russia, which imported 13,600 tons — an increase for the first five months of the year of 433 percent.

According to data from the National Meat Institute (INAC), beef from Uruguay saw exports increase by 18 percent during the first quarter of 2018. Bovine meat accounts for 82 percent of the total volume of meat exports of the country and the average price per ton has increased to US $3,521, while that average price for the year 2017 was US $3,404 per ton.

Brazilian meat exports had a similar percentage increase to that of Uruguayan meats, reaching an 11 percent increase during the first seven months of 2018. China was positioned as the main recipient of Brazilian beef exports, and while the total value of exports was around US $3,500 million, the increase in volume was 8.3 percent (844,000 tons) more than in the previous year.

The production of all fresh meat from Mexico accounts for 15 percent of the GDP of the agricultural sector according to the Mexican Council of Meat. Within this category, beef accounts for 20 percent in terms of production. As for exports, from January to August there was an increase of 3 percent in exports. The U.S. market continues to be the main destination for Mexican meats, but both institutions and the private sector work to open and diversify international markets.



According to the data from the annual Rabobank Pork Report for 2017, pork meat transactions accounted for a total of 81 million tons worth EUR 18 billion. The four most important exporters were the EU, US, China and Brazil. These four countries accounted for 91 percent of global pork exports. After losing the ability to export to Russia in 2010, exporters have focused their efforts on the East Asian markets, specifically China and Japan. While the former represents a larger volume, the latter requires higher value-added products. Brazil was banned from exporting pork meat to Russia during part of the year, but its efforts during the second half of the year to export to China have paid off with a rebound after a start of the year with lower volumes. It is expected that domestic consumption will represent a rebound in the total for 2018 due to a slight improvement in economic capacity. Due to export problems to the Russian market, Brazilian companies have set Mexico as one of the export markets with the highest percentage growth. Mexico recently increased the export quota for this item from Brazil. Additionally, Brazil has opened the South Korean market as a complement to China and other Asian markets.

Mexico began its exports of pork to China in 2016 for the first time in its history, and in June of 2018, the countries signed bilateral agreements to further facilitate the export of this type of meat along with some fruits. New export destinations such as Taiwan and the Philippine Islands can lead to lucrative new export markets. On the other hand, the Central American countries have seen an increase in investments to open receiving markets by US processors. They seek to diversify their exports and more traditional markets such as Japan.

Meat from Paraguay also suffered a notable decline in exports due to the temporary closure of the Russian market. The Russian authorities justified the ban alleging the structural lack of audit tools, and left Paraguayan meat without one of its main export markets. Chile is the second country that receives the highest exports of Paraguayan meat. On the other hand, meat exports from Paraguay to Hong Kong increased by 110 percent compared to the first quarter of 2017.

After an agreement was reached between Argentina and the U.S. for the purchase of U.S. pork was established for the first time in 26 years, the sector in Argentina has voiced concerns centered on animal health, under the belief that pork from the US can be a carrier of respiratory and reproductive syndrome. However, the USA is the largest exporter of pork worldwide, exporting mainly to Mexico, Canada and Japan. Argentina is the thirteenth producer of pork with close to 605,000 tons per year. Recent agreements will open the door to the Chinese market, one of the most lucrative in the world by volume.



Latin America has two countries among the 15 primary producers and exporters of poultry meat: Brazil and Chile. The poultry sector has also been affected in Brazil by the “antidumping” regulations of China and the export restrictions by the EU to certain processors. During the first half of 2018, Brazil exported 2.3 million tons, which represented a decrease of 8.2% with respect to the same period of the previous year. Even so, Brazil continues to be the largest producer and exporter of poultry meat in Latin America. Latin America also has three companies among the 10 largest in the world; JBS, BRF and Bachoco. The first two, of Brazilian origin, have gone through various difficulties of different kinds and have worked to recover over the last two years. 

The sector in Mexico continues a path of growth in exports of around 4 percent per year. This is partly due to vertical integration, improvement of production systems and increase of food safety throughout the production chain. The sector in Mexico also has strength in the the production of eggs, both for domestic consumption and export. In the absence of finalized official data, the poultry sector is expected to produce 3.9 million tons of chicken meat and 10,700 tons of turkey meat in Mexico. The strong domestic consumption, which stands at 28.2 kg per capita of domestic product, expects an increase also accounting when accounting also for exported product of up to 32.88 kg per capita.

This level of consumption, however, is not the highest in Latin America. Peru leads in per capita consumption of chicken meat with almost 47 kg per capita, having surpassed Argentina in 2017. Panama and Brazil follow Peru closely with 41kg per capita according to the figures of Watt Global. Bolivia had a significant increase in the consumption of poultry meat from the year 2016 to the present, from 33kg per capita to more than 43kgs. The concerning economic and social situation in Venezuela has led to one of the most significant declines in poultry meat consumption, from 37 kg per capita in 2016 to only 17 kg in 2017, and in the absence of confirmation of an exact figure for the year 2018, an even larger decrease is to be expected. NP

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Industria Alimenticia, 
a sister publication in the BNP Media portfolio. For more insights,