Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture officials may have missed their country’s snagging of a gold medal in judo this past week. A number of them were busy certifying packers to send fresh beef to the United States. It’s the next step after a series of talks that started in 1999. USDA okayed fresh Brazilian beef imports from the parts of Brazil certified as free of hoof and mouth disease last month.
The South American country is already permitted to send processed beef to the U.S.—with 2015 sales estimated at $286.8 million. But the new agreement will mean Brazil can send up to 64.8 million tonnes of fresh and frozen beef to the U.S. each year.
Marbled versus grass-fed
So maybe not all Americans will go for Brazil’s mostly grass-fed fresh beef, preferring meat from animals that have spent more time in confinement. But even if fresh Brazilian beef doesn’t become a big hit in America, it will likely increase the confidence of meat purchasers around the world. After all, the USDA stamp of approval is about as good as any Olympic medal when it comes to selling one’s beef around the world.
Like China, for instance. It seems like not long ago the only things China bought from Brazil were iron ore and soybeans, though they were gobbling up those commodities as if there were no tomorrow. Slowly, however, the Asian giant is diversifying its imports from Brazil, including pork and beef.
Passing up Australia
In fact, a local Reuters report indicates Brazil just passed Australia as China’s top beef supplier. In the first half of this year, Brazilian beef exports to China rose 12% compared to the same period of 2015, to nearly 585,000 pounds. That’s not a lot, but not long ago that number would have been far closer to zero.
Related: Brazil reopens market for U.S. beef
It’s true. Brazilian soybean exports to China are like Katie Ledecky in the Olympic pool: so far ahead of all other exports that one doesn’t bother paying too much attention to any others. Still Brazilian beef (and pork) to China stands a chance of growing as the Chinese eat more of it. So Brazilians look to trade on their new USDA approval to move more of the beef that their worsening economy is putting out of the reach of more domestic consumers.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.