Pork gains ground in Latin America

Per capita consumption is up, and several countries in the region see a boost in exports.

Brasil es responsable por el 61% de la producción porcina del continente suramericano
Brasil es responsable por el 61% de la producción porcina del continente suramericano

The Latin American pig industry’s growth curve is rising during 2009.

Per capita pork consumption is growing consistently, although it’s still far from the numbers European Union countries are experiencing (see Figure 1). But because the main markets in South American are boosting pig production and exports, positive expectations emerge for this sector’s future.

Argentine consumption increases

This is the case for Argentina, where producers slaughtered more than 1.5 million head in the first half of 2009, 15% more than the same period in the previous year, according to the National Office of Agricultural Commercial Control (ONCCA). The industry has been showing positive results since 2004, says Juan Uccelli, president of the Argentine Association of Pigs Producers (AAPP).

“This trend has never been sustained by the Argentine pig industry for such a long period in its history,” Uccelli said during the trade show Fericerdo 2009.

Official statistics from the ONCAA indicate that local demand has increased by 9% in volume while exports have grown 84% in volume and 78% in value in the first half of 2009, compared to the same period in 2008. To assure the sector continues with positive results, the Argentine Exterior Commerce Secretariat is supporting small pig ranches which were affected by the intense drought.

The measure was established through the resolution 550/09 published in the Official Bulletin. The drought has seriously diminished wheat crops, which could have an impact on pig production.

Chile, Brazil pig production

Chile is another Latin American market where internal demand for porcine products has been increasing nonstop for several years. In fact, at the end of 2008, for the first time in Chilean history, pork came in second place — after poultry meat —internal demand, surpassing beef.

According to the Chilean Agrarian Studies and Policies Office, Chileans consumed 25 kilos of pork per person during 2008, while beef demand was 22 kilos per habitant a year in that period.

Brazil deserves a chapter on its own. It is the largest producer in South America, and accounts for over 61% of the continent’s pig production. In this country, per capita pork consumption went from 8 kg per habitant a year in 1993 to 13 kg. in the first half of 2008, according to the Brazilian Association of Pig Breeders (ABECS).

Even though Brazil is the fourth largest pork producer and exporter worldwide, the rising per capita per consumption remains far below European countries such as Spain, with 66kg per person a year, and even lower than in the Chilean market (see Figure 2).

Brazilians associate pork with obesity and poor quality and sanitary controls, according to a study from ABECS. This is the reason the association launched a campaign in 2007 entitled “A new perspective on pork” with the goal to increase internal consumption by two kilos per capita a year by 2010.

Brazilian exports

On the other hand, from January to July of 2009, Brazil exported more than 342,000 tons of porcine meat producing $683 million in revenue, according to the Brazilian Association of Swine Meat Producing and Exporting Industry. This implies a 4.83% growth in volume in relation to the same period in 2008. Russia, Hong Kong, Ukraine, Angola and Singapore were the main destinations.

This association is confident the industry will reach exports for 600,000 tons in 2009, surpassing the 529,000 tons in 2008.

Aiming to include itself in this regional trend, Uruguay recently launched a campaign to elevate pork consumption from its 10.2 kg. per capita a year. This initiative emerged from the Meat Salesman Union and the National Butchers Association. The campaign is based on identifying with a special logo the retailers which will sell a kilo of deboned pork at a very reasonable price. 

Back to normal

The H1N1 virus spread quickly throughout the world, and affected the whole pig sector.

“Unfortunately for the industry, the ‘swine flu’ has been confused with the current outbreak of influenza in humans, although the situation is related to matters of public health and not to pigs, pork or its byproducts,” according to the Ibero-American Pork-Culture Organization.

Mexico was hit particularly hard by the virus given the first outbreak in humans was in this country. However, Mexico was recently declared “free of classic swine flu” by the Agriculture, Cattle, Rural Development, Fishing and Food Secretariat.

According to this organization, the Mexican pig sector is made up of 15.2 million heads, and it produces approximately 1.4 million tons of pork a year.

Mexican pork exports produce more than $300 million and cater to markets such as Japan, Korea and the United States.

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