Chicken meat production in Uruguay in 2015 is estimated at 86,200 metric tons (mt), almost 11 percent below the 2014 figure of 96,800 mt, according to the Yearbook of the Office of Agricultural Planning and Policy 2015 (Opypa) of the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries. If confirmed, this would be the first decline in output since 2010.

At 5,700 mt, exports in 2015 were down sharply from 16,826 mt the year before. While 15 percent of production was exported in 2014, the figure last year was just 7 percent. In 2014, 83 percent of Uruguayan chicken production was destined for Venezuela but the trade stopped for 2015. This forced Uruguay to seek out other export markets, which it achieved but the volumes were nowhere near enough to compensate for the loss of the Venezuelan trade.

Benjamin Ruiz, editor of Industria Avicola, explains that chicken trade between Uruguay and Venezuela was initially halted because of a dispute over alleged outstanding debts but after this was resolved, Venezuelan producers called for a ban on poultry meat imports from Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, claiming unfair competition.

The balance of an estimated 80,500 mt chicken meat produced in Uruguay in 2015 was consumed by the domestic market, reports Opypa, bringing an average annual intake per person of 24.4 kilograms. This compares with the global average of around 15 kilograms.

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In contrast to exports, imports of chicken to Uruguay have shown sustained growth in recent years, from US$2 million in 2008 to nearly US$10 million in 2014, according to Opypa. Most imports are higher value-added and processed chicken products. Although 2014 saw the first imports of whole birds from Brazil, these accounted for less than 1 percent of the total value of imported chicken meat. Most of Uruguay’s chicken meat imports in 2014 were from Brazil (52 percent), followed by Chile (34 percent), Argentina (13 percent) and the U.S. (1 percent).

Opypa calls for greater investment in poultry meat processing capacity so that local firms are able to compete more effectively for both domestic and export markets.

In December of 2015, Uruguay’s ambassador in Moscow, Anibal Cabral, told Novosti Sputnik that his country was ready to increase its exports of chicken meat to Russia. This trade has taken place in the past, including small quantities in 2014 and 2015. At that time, Russia had announced the suspension of Turkish imports of poultry meat and other foods following the downing of a Russian bomber by Turkey’s Air Force in Syrian airspace.