Competitor watch: Uruguay

Uruguay is a relatively small beef producer and dwarfed in tonnes produced when compared to its South America neighbours, Brazil and Argentina. In 2018 Uruguayan beef production is estimated to total just above 575,000 tonnes carcase weight (cwt), according to the USDA – this would represent a 3% decline on the year prior and 2019 is forecast to decline a further 7%.

For context, Brazilian beef production is forecast to increase 3% next year, adding an additional 300,000 tonnes cwt of beef into the market.

Despite its status as a small producer, Uruguay’s position as a leading exporter of beef is widely regarded, underpinned by strict sanitary standards, as well as extensive transparency along the supply chain.

These standards support Uruguay’s access into a number of Australia’s key markets, namely the US, China and EU. Even with a forecast decline in beef production and exports (back 5%) in 2019, Uruguay will remain a strategic competitor for Australia.

For the calendar year-to-September, Uruguayan beef exports totalled 238,000 tonnes shipped weight (swt), up 3% year-on-year with China accounting for 53% of all exports.

Dry conditions have hampered the supply of finished cattle in Uruguay, particularly in the northern parts of the country and finished cattle prices maintained a steady increase until September – demand from China also supported finished prices. In fact, steady cattle price rises saw finished cattle in Uruguay on parity with their Australian counterparts, on a currency adjust basis, for the first time since 2015.