Weekly Product Updates

W51 Beef Update: China's Beef Imports Examining a 32% YoY Drop in Frozen Meat Prices, Top Suppliers, and Paraguay's Penetration Strategy

Fresh Bone-In Beef
Fresh Whole Beef
Published Dec 28, 2023

China's Beef Market Reshuffled by Price Corrections in Q1-23 to Q3-23

In Oct-23, China faced a 12% year-on-year (YoY) decline in beef imports, marking the third consecutive monthly decrease despite maintaining a substantial overall volume. The cumulative data for 2023 reveals a 3% YoY increase in imports. CIF import price for boneless frozen meat averaged approximately USD 5,034 per metric ton (mt), showcasing a substantial 32% YoY decrease from the peak prices witnessed in July of the previous year. This decline signifies a persistent price crisis rather than a challenge related to volume.. Boneless chilled meats constitute a mere 2% of Chinese imports. In the interval of Jan-Oct 2023, Australia emerged as the leader with 25.5 thousand mt (+31% YoY), followed by the United States (US) with 14.8 thousand mt (+12% YoY), New Zealand with 7.8 thousand mt, and Argentina with 1.3 thousand mt. The CIF price/mt of Australian chilled meat stood at USD 11,234, the US at USD 15,171, New Zealand at USD 6,855, and Argentina at USD 6,316. The placement of 330 mt of chilled bone-in meat by Australia at USD 21,359/mt suggests bone-in cuts or Wagyu carcasses.

Brazil leads the ranking with 942 thousand mt and a 51% share of frozen boneless meat, representing 82% of total imports,, followed by Argentina with 345 thousand mt and 19% share. Australia follows with 128 thousand mt, Uruguay with 122 thousand mt, New Zealand with 115 thousand mt, the US with 98 thousand mt, and Bolivia with 54 thousand mt. In bone-in meat imports, Argentina placed 100 thousand mt in the Chinese market from Q1-23 to Q3-23, while Uruguay secured placements of 107 thousand mt. Combining boneless and bone-in meat, Argentina's share in the Chinese market rose to 20%, and Uruguay's to 10%. Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay collectively provided a significant 72% of China's beef purchases.

For CIF prices, particularly for boneless frozen meat, the US leads with USD 8,630/mt, followed by Australia with USD 7,665/mt, New Zealand with USD 5,866/mt, Brazil with USD 5,140/mt, Uruguay with USD 5,127/mt, Bolivia with USD 5,017/mt, closing with Argentina at USD 4,787/mt. The records indicate increased participation from China, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and Bolivia, while Uruguay, the US, and New Zealand experience declines. Australia and New Zealand are strategically capitalizing on the favorable prices offered by the American market. Beef exports to China in Nov-23 were at a level of 232 thousand mt, similar to that of Oct-23.

Actionable Recommendations

  • Embrace the rise of Brazil and Argentina evaluating relatively lower CIF prices offered compared to high-cost players like the US as an opportunity.
  • Consider long-term contracts or partnerships to secure a steady supply. Capitalize on the premium market for Australian chilled meats.
  • Partner with distributors focusing on premium quality and branding in China to cater to this demand, potentially including high-value cuts like Wagyu.
  • Explore Bolivia’s rapidly growing export potential. However, conduct thorough due diligence to ensure quality standards and reliable supply before committing.

Russian Competitive Pricing and Uruguay's Supply Dominance

Russian half-carcass beef prices have been competitive over the past 11 months of 2023, averaging USD 4.2 per kilogram (kg), representing a 9% YoY decrease. Uruguay is the second-ranking country in beef prices, with an average of USD 4.9/kg. Remarkably, Uruguay leads in beef supply to the world market. The US follows with an average price of USD 6.2/kg, reflecting a substantial 22% YoY increase. Over a five-year period, beef costs surged by almost 50% in the US and 33% in the European Union (EU), while Russia and Uruguay saw more modest 5% to 7% increases, highlighting Russia's competitive pricing in the global market.

Actionable Recommendations

  • Leverage Russia's low prices as a cost advantage.
  • Consider sourcing Russian beef for markets with high price tolerance or value-driven segments.
  • Address the potential instability of Russian exports due to geopolitical factors by diversifying sourcing options and ensuring alternative supply chains.

New Markets and Challenges Await for Paraguay's Meat Industry

Paraguay is on the verge of commencing its first-ever beef exports to the US, sparking enthusiasm across the country's meat industry, spanning both public and private sectors. With operations already in progress, exporters are actively planning shipments set to reach North America in Jan-24, aiming to maximize opportunities within the tariff-free quota of 645 thousand mt, where Brazil stands as its primary competitor. While the meat complex aims to position around 10 thousand mt in 2024 as an initial venture, American importers anticipate Paraguay leveraging additional opportunities both within and outside the established quota. Notably, Paraguay holds prospects for sales beyond the quota to third countries, albeit subject to a 26.4% tariff for US buyers. This imminent expansion into the US market signifies a significant milestone for Paraguay's meat industry, with the potential for increased market penetration and competitiveness.

Saudi Arabia's Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) approved the import of beef from Paraguay following a successful audit, as announced by Paraguay's National Service for Animal Quality and Health (Senacsa) on Monday. This approval comes on the heels of recent authorization for beef exports to the US, with the inaugural shipment set for W51. In addition to Saudi Arabia, the US, and Canada, auditors are currently evaluating other markets, including Japan, South Korea, and Mexico. These developments aim to bolster Paraguay's standing in the global market.

Actionable Recommendations

  • Maximize the tariff-free quota for Paraguayan beef in the US.
  • Focus on high-quality cuts and competitive pricing to differentiate from primary competitor Brazil.
  • Anticipate aggressive competition from established players like Brazil in the US market.
  • Implement robust quality control measures to ensure consistency and exceed expectations.
  • Research niche segments in the US and pursue promising markets with lower or no tariffs.
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