Meat producers in Argentina double their sales to China

Argentina's meat industry is looking for Beijing to approve production plants to increase its already bulky food exports to China, industry sources told Reuters, at a time when trade delegations travel through both countries.

Showcase of a butcher shop.

Showcase of a butcher shop. / Reference image / Pixabay

Reuters | Maximilian Heath, Dominique Patton y Hugh Bronstein

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Leer en español: Productores de carne de Argentina duplican sus ventas a China

A group from the Argentine meat sector is currently in China promoting the traditional Pampas "steaks," while a Chinese team was recently in Argentina, where it inspected local factories, they said.

China is fighting an outbreak of African swine fever that has caused significant losses in its pig herd. Because of that, the Asian nation seeks to secure an additional source of meat for its gigantic population, a trend that dramatically boosted Argentine sales.

In the first seven months of the year, bovine meat exports from Argentina to China - traditionally of cheaper cuts - grew 110% year-on-year to 870 million dollars between January and July 2019, according to the official Argentine statistics agency INDEC.

Meanwhile, according to Chinese customs, in the first seven months of the year, the Asian nation imported 185,604 tons of Argentine meat, placing the South American country as China's main supplier of food with 21.7% of total purchases. Brazil ranks second with 21.03% of the total.

In turn, data from Beijing show that Argentine meat imports grew 129% year-on-year between January and July 2019.

The head of the Cabinet of the Argentine Ministry of Agribusiness, Santiago del Solar, told Reuters that there were many factories waiting to get a green light and that China was working alongside the state health entity SENASA.

"We will have news in the coming months about approvals from China to pork, chicken and beef plants," said del Solar, who said SENASA was conducting some inspections on behalf of China, using an "honor system."

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A trade delegation is in China conducting meetings with potential clients, a source from the sector told Reuters, adding that a team from China had recently traveled to Argentina to visit production plants.

"They were in Buenos Aires last week, making inspections, a lot of progress was made. The issue of (productive) plants is quite good, but China enables when it wants," said the source, who asked that his identity not be revealed.

"We are optimistic about the results. It seems they found no anomalies, but yes, it depends on Chinese times."

The visit comes after China granted export licenses to 25 meat production plants in Brazil earlier this month. Argentina's neighbor has also seen a growth in its exports thanks to Chinese demand.

The Chinese General Administration of Customs, the regulator of new imports, recently approved the entry of Argentine soybean meal sales, ending a negotiation that lasted for 20 years.

A second source - a director in a Chinese state trading house - said he had met last week with an Argentine company that participates in the delegation and was looking for Beijing to approve more of its production units.

The source said that the Argentine company, which he did not want to give the name, had held a meeting with the Chinese customs agency.

For his part, Miguel Schiariti, president of the Chamber of Meat Industry and Commerce of Argentina, said that a Chinese delegation had made a videoconference last week with a local company and SENASA, with the aim of obtaining the approval of a factory of meat.

"There are 11 refrigerators in a position to be approved and they are doing it one by one, (but) approval is taking a long time," Schiariti told Reuters.

"They would be in condition, but the Chinese have always been very cautious, despite the problem they have with pig meat. It seems to me that before November the factories will not be enabled," he explained.