Uruguay’s Beef Sector:
On both economic and social levels, meats are more important to Uruguay than in most other country in the world.
Making up 18% of total exports, and 29% of Gross Agriculture and Livestock production, the economic importance of meat to the country is evident. Two factors underscore the importance of meat from a social point of view: (1) more than half of Uruguayan farms produce livestock as a principal activity and (2) on average, Uruguayan’s consume more beef than anywhere else on earth.
Other than being a significant economic area, the Beef Industry has been a rapidly growing sector, particularly over the last decade. In the 1994 – 2004 period, beef production increased be 14%. Likewise slaughtering increased by 45% and cumulative growth topped 4.3% annually between 1994 and 2004 (as measured in tons).
Uruguay has had notable export performance, which accompanied extraordinary increases in production. Between 1995 and 2003, sales abroad rose from U$S 252 million to U$S 397 million (a 58 % increase). This growth was accompanied by a significant rise in the number of markets to which Uruguay has access. While in 1995, Uruguay only had access to 36 countries; this number had risen to 54 countries by 2003, including the United States, Canada among others.
Meat production systems and meat packing plant attributes allow for exports to the most demanding markets. Production is based on ecologically sustainable systems, mainly rangelands, and free of BSEs. In accordance with the European Commission’s Scientific Committee categorization, Uruguay is considered a ‘minimal BSE risk country’ (risk of BSE highly unlikely).
The industry has made significant investments. Of the 34 domestically authorized plants, 23 have beef export permits. Likewise foreign investment has increased over the last few years, with capital coming in from Argentina, Chile, Europe and the United States.
Throughout its history, Uruguay has been known for being a provider of red meat. Its principal comparative advantage has been the ability to offer the world a nutritious, healthy and safe product to the world with hygiene guarantees.
Over the last few years, international markets have become more demanding with regards to feeding, animal welfare and environmental sustainability. Most agree that these will be the leading factors for demand of meat products in the future. Meat production in Uruguay is meeting the challenge of being able to satisfy these demands and has the fundamental asset of being a reliable country, considering comparative advantages in cattle production.
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© 2009 Global Farm Partners