Uruguay suffered two years of drought in 2008-2009, but the country’s beef production has increased by an average of 4-5% annually since 2010, and the USDA predicted that Uruguay will produce around 580,000 tonnes (t) carcase weight equivalent (cwe) in 2014.
Slaughter has been boosted by strong calf prices, which have encouraged breeders to produce more feeder cattle. The USDA stated that the total slaughter for 2013 is forecast at 2.38m head, the highest in eight years.
Uruguay’s calf crop is expected to reach its highest ever level in 2014 at 3m calves. “An expected higher-than-normal weaning ratio is the result of very good weather in 2013 and 2014 and to good returns, which encouraged cattlemen to continue to improve herd management,” said the USDA.
Higher slaughter and beef output is forecast to boost Uruguay’s beef exports in 2014, with shipments expected to reach 400,000t cwe. China recently became the biggest destination for Uruguayan beef – accounting for 22% of exports in the first four months of 2013 – and this is expected to continue in 2014.
Exports to the US and Canada in 2014 are expected to remain high and the USDA predicted that the quotas for both countries would be filled. Exports of chilled beef to Europe are also expected to perform well, with the 6,300-ton Hilton Quota expected to be fulfilled along with a similar level of exports under the EU Quota 481 for hormone-free beef.
Russia will remain an important market, although it will import significantly less Uruguayan beef than in 2012.
Uruguay’s cattle exports, which peaked in 2008-2011 but fell in 2012, are expected to rebound to 120,000 head on the back of the record calf crop next year. “Uruguayan cattlemen support these exports as it is an additional market where they can sell their calves and not depend exclusively on local buyers,” said the USDA.
The main markets for Uruguayan cattle are Turkey and other countries in the Middle East.