South American nations have big plans to expand meat exports to Europe in order to capitalise on the BSE scare. Even though they are strongly promoting their BSE-free beef, it looks as though the biggest gainers in the European market will be sheep (mutton) and pork. This is ironic given the fact that Brazil recently had a big scare when scrapie was detected in a herd of sheep. Uruguay and Colombia are planning to expand exports of sheep and pork respectively.

Santa Catarina, one of Brazil’s leading livestock producing states, projects that pork exports will increase by 70,000 tons this year, generating additional sales of US$80m. State agriculture secretary Odacir Zonta will soon visit two of the most promising export markets: Holland and Russia. This year’s sales to Russia are expected to reach 60,000 tons, more than double the level in 2000.

Cattle production used to dominate Uruguay’s livestock sector, but the situation is changing due to a strong demand for sheep. With prices for lamb and mutton running 40% higher than that of beef, an increasing number of livestock farms are switching to sheep production. Members of Cordero Pesado, a very successful program for sheep farmers, achieved a 32% increase in animals butchered in 2000, relative to 1999. Substantial gains are expected again this year.

By Steve Lewis, correspondent