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Where's the beef? A lot going to China

By May Zhou in Buenos Aires | China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-01 07:59
A cow is seen during a cattle auction in Brandsen, Argentina, on Aug 15, 2009. [Photo/IC]

About 55 percent of Argentina's beef exports are now destined for China, according to the Institute for Promotion of Argentine Beef, or IPCVA.

In the first eight months of 2018, Argentina shipped 114,000 tons of beef to China, exceeding last year's 100,000 tons, the group said.

It is anticipated that a new beef trade agreement between Argentina and China will be signed after the G20 Summit. The beef industry in the South American country anticipates more growth in the China market.

The IPCVA launched a promotional campaign in China in May, sending top chefs to major cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou to train other chefs how best to cook various cuts of beef.

The group also formed a partnership with the China Cuisine Association and launched a WeChat platform to educate the Chinese public about its beef products. The quality, tenderness, taste and juiciness of Argentine beef, as well as its competitive price, are major selling points.

According to an IPCVA report, there were many happy faces at the Argentine Beef Pavilion during the China International Import Expo in November in Shanghai. Thirteen Argentine companies joined forces for the display. Business agreements between Chinese and Argentine companies were signed at the event.

An agreement between major Argentine beef producer Compania Bernal SA and Zhejiang Native Produce and Animal By-Products Group, calls for the purchase of $10 million worth of meat from Bernal in 2019.

"These unprecedented agreements, made within the framework of the IPCVA, guarantee not only the continuity of this market but also the growth of beef exports," said Ulises Forte, president of IPCVA, who was present at the signing.

"We left with very happy feelings," Forte said. "We continue to increase exports and we are one of the few sectors that can offer good news.

"Now we need public policies that encourage production and productivity so that supply can grow at the same pace and satisfy international demand."

The beef export potential has prompted the creation of new businesses across Argentina. Industria Ganadera Sudamerica SA (IGS, Cattle Industry of South America) was established about a year ago by a group of Chinese investors in Buenos Aires. The company began operations in April and started shipping beef to China in July.

So far, about 20 containers of beef - more than 500 tons - have been exported to China by the company, according to David Wu, general manager of IGS.

"We buy livestock and send it to appointed slaughterhouses to cut and package the meat according to China's specific requirements. Our goal is to ship 30 containers of beef a month," Wu said.

There are 50 million head of cattle in Argentina, where the human population is about 40 million, Wu said. "Argentines mostly consume premium cuts of young cattle. Meat from cattle used for breeding is usually discarded. However, Chinese people traditionally enjoy beef in the form of beef jerky."

Beef jerky does not require premium quality beef, and that makes China the ideal importer of Argentina's surplus, he said.

"Chinese people consume about 6 kilograms of beef per person per year. The country needs to import 200 tons of beef annually to meet that demand. The demand is high and we are packaging beef as fast as we can," Wu said.

IGS has formed partnerships with a few local companies, including Pampa Corp, which has been exporting beef to the Mideast for years.

"I used my business connections to connect IGS to a couple of slaughterhouses. Our company also sells cattle to them and brings them directly to the producers," said Juan Uriburu, Pampa's CEO.

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