Argentina’s Beef Exports Set to Break 1924 Record

Argentina’s beef exports are on a trajectory that could see them potentially reach or even surpass the record volume of 924,000 tons set in 1924 by the end of 2023. This substantial surge can be attributed, in part, to the elimination of export restrictions imposed by the previous government, including administrative controls and bans on exporting seven popular cuts.

Debate Over Inclusion of Bone

Ignacio Iriarte, a market analyst, mentioned that the inclusion of bone in the export figures, a topic of debate among analysts, has contributed to the high totals. According to the Argentine Beef Consortium ABC, the 12-month period leading up to November 2023 saw a total of 667,700 tons of refrigerated and frozen beef exported, equivalent to 945,000 tons including bone, bringing in nearly $2.733 billion.

China as Primary Market

China remains the primary market, accounting for nearly 80% of Argentine beef exports, with significant volumes purchased in November 2023 alone. The Mercosur region, excluding Paraguay due to its agreement with Taiwan, supplies 72% of China’s beef imports, with Bolivia also emerging as a significant supplier.

Export Values Lag Behind Volumes

However, export values have not kept pace with volumes, with prices in China having fallen by 35% compared to a year and a half ago. This has resulted in an accumulation of imported meat stocks in China and an expectation of several months before prices recover. Analysts forecast that in 2024 exports will become more competitive if the exchange rate remains favorable.

Yet, despite the potential for increased exports, domestic consumption in Argentina may decrease. Analyst Víctor Tonelli highlighted that 20% of exports comprised bones from deboning processes, and including them in export figures could inflate statistics. The AZ Group consulting firm reported that 938,060 tons of beef, including bone, were exported from December 2022 to November 2023, with November shipments alone reaching 81,000 tons.

While volumes have been high, prices have been weak throughout the year, with no significant increase in demand as China’s economy has not fully recovered, and the yuan has remained weak. Looking ahead to 2024, higher export volumes are anticipated.