Brazil’s beef exporters say they are gearing up for a trade push in the Far East and south-east Asia after exports to China resumed following the lifting of a ban last year.

The Brazilian Beef Exporters Association (ABIEC), which represents 29 export firms, told just-food it is developing a new drive for sales, with a focus on growing sales in Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand, in addition to seeking out further business opportunities in China and Hong Kong.

ABIEC market analyst Angelica Cottica Grisuk also said exporters are setting their sights on North America for a renewed trade push – after Brasilia and Washington agreed to open their markets to beef imports from both countries earlier this year – plus a “special focus” on the UK as it prepares to leave the European Union.

Grisuk said Brazil has exported around 112,000 tons of beef to China (not including the special administration region of Hong Kong) since the start of this year, although she declined to give the combined value of the shipments.  

Grisuk said: “Asian markets are important prospects for us. Countries such as Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea have average prices that are really interesting for us.”

She also revealed the ABIEC held preliminary talks with UK firms at last month’s SIAL international food and drink trade event in Paris, attended by around 20 Brazilian beef firms, about working towards post-Brexit trade deals.

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“The UK will continue to be an important market for us even after Brexit,” Grisuk said. “We already export a lot of canned meat to the UK, such as corned beef.” She said she did not have recent figures for beef supplies to the UK, but said processed beef exports were “steady”.

Grisuk added: “After Brexit, we expect that to continue and also to expand exports of primary beef to be processed by the food industry in the UK. We have spoken to UK companies about that and we are already in talks with some about what happens after Brexit. The UK importers we have spoken to think the process of Brexit will take a long time, and they are more worried now about how to deal with that. But in the long term, we want successful negotiations with the UK because we see it as a really important market. We will continue to have EU partners too, but we will have to negotiate with the UK.”

The biggest export markets for Brazilian beef are China, including Hong Kong, plus Egypt, the EU and Russia, Grisuk said. In dollar terms, Grisuk said the EU currently ranks around “fourth or fifth” in terms of export markets, although she detailed latest figures are expected to be published early in the new year.

She said EU sales have been sluggish to recover in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. However, beef exporters saw fresh opportunities to reinvigorate trade with the bloc.

“Europe is an important market for us. In fact, it used to be one of our main markets, but after the crisis of 2008 trade went down. This was because the purchase of meat is closely related to income, so went people’s income went down, import orders fell.”

However, Grisuk said the EU remains an important market on which to grow sales “because we export some of our best cuts of meat there, such as fillet and tenderloin, so it is a strategic market”.

Looking closer to home, Grisuk said Brazil’s beef exporters “now want to grow in the US”, which in turn could provide a stepping stone to enter other international markets. “Now that we are again in the US, we have an open door to start negotiating for business with other markets such as Canada and Mexico,” Grisuk said. “Also, since we are going back into the US, countries such as Japan can see that our meat is healthy and acceptable.”

A 2012 embargo by Japan on Brazilian processed beef, following what was said to be an atypical case of BSE, was lifted last year. “Now the ban has ended, the two governments are now discussing the next steps forward,” Grisuk said.