Weekly Product Updates

W4 Beef Update: Colombia Gains Access to Chinese Market Amid Environmental Concerns, South Africa Targets Growth in Saudi Arabia

Fresh Bone-In Beef
Saudi Arabia
Market & Price Trends
Fresh Whole Beef
Published Jan 30, 2024

Colombia's Greenlit Beef Exports to China Bring Economic Promise Amidst Environmental Concerns

The recent approval for Colombian beef exports to China signals a substantial growth opportunity for the nation's beef industry. Projections indicate a prospective surge in exports, with estimates suggesting an annual volume exceeding 100 thousand metric tons (mt) by 2025, reflecting a noteworthy 122% year-on-year (YoY) increase from the 2022 total of 45 thousand mt. While livestock unions welcome this development, it has concurrently raised concerns among environmentalists and organizations. The apprehension revolves around potential environmental repercussions, specifically the risk of intensified deforestation linked to an upswing in production. This concern is underscored by Colombia's historical loss of over 3 million hectares (ha) in the Amazon to livestock farming over the past three decades.

The trajectory toward facilitating Colombian beef exports to China was initiated nearly a decade ago, navigating challenges related to health requirements, notably the need to establish the country's freedom from foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) through vaccination. The recent conclusive signing of the trade protocol positions Colombia to potentially export 250 thousand mt of beef annually, translating to an estimated income of approximately USD 1 billion. The inaugural shipment of Colombian meat to the Chinese market is anticipated in early 2024, as communicated by FEDEGAN, Colombia's primary livestock union.

However, imperative environmental and sustainability considerations demand attention beyond the economic outlook. Scrutiny is directed at the traceability mechanisms within the Colombian livestock industry, with concerns raised about the transparency of the supply chain. Investigations into the industry's association with deforestation underscore weaknesses in tracing livestock origin due to a convoluted chain of intermediaries, hampering efforts to ensure sustainability and environmental responsibility. Livestock from protected areas, such as the Amazon rainforest, illicitly enter the supply chain through intermediaries, compromising traceability. The period from 2014 to 2021 saw over 110 thousand heads of cattle originating from areas near national and regional natural parks in the Colombian Amazon, posing a considerable threat to the region's ecology.

Additionally, doubts arise regarding the reliability of certifications and green seals endorsing sustainable and legal livestock farming practices. The Colombian Environmental Seal (SAC), introduced by the government to establish sustainable criteria, is still in its nascent stages. Questions persist regarding the efficacy of third-party verification and traceability documentation within the process. These factors underscore critical considerations about the industry's capacity to adhere to sustainable practices, safeguard biodiversity, and confront environmental challenges while leveraging the economic opportunities presented by beef exports to China.

South Africa's Beef Industry Expands Reach with Saudi Arabia as Key Export Market

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has historically played a minor role in South Africa's beef export markets, with limited volumes exported in the early 2000s. However, the recent re-entry into this market is significant for South Africa's ambitions to enhance beef exports, considering the substantial size of the Saudi beef market, which was valued at over USD 647 million in 2021. Approximately 62% of Saudi beef imports consist of frozen beef, with leading suppliers including Brazil, Australia, Pakistan, the United States (US), New Zealand, and Canada. Beyond beef, the overall Saudi meat market reflects an annual average import value of USD 1.9 billion over the past five years, indicating the potential for South Africa's expanding exports in other meat value chains.

Amid challenges faced by the South African beef industry, such as rising feed prices since 2020, particularly for maize and soybeans, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer finances, the development of new export opportunities is a welcome relief. The outbreak of FMD in multiple provinces led to temporary export bans and disruptions in livestock movements in 2022. Despite these challenges, South Africa's beef exports for 2022 totaled 28.4 thousand mt, a 12% decrease from 2021, with fresh beef accounting for 54% of the exports. The recent softening of feed prices due to robust domestic maize and soybean harvests, coupled with easing global grain prices, has contributed to an improved operational environment.

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