Tight beef supplies a hot topic at World Meat Congress

Oct 1, 2010
by WLJ

World Meat Congress 2010 was underway in Buenos Aires, Argentina, last week with industry experts from across the globe gathering to discuss current trends and future challenges in meat production and consumption.

While the focus of the conference was global, this year’s venue specifically cast a spotlight on Argentina’s dwindling beef supplies—which are the result of severe drought and interventionist government policies that have hampered its beef industry’s ability to export. According to U.S. Meat Export Federation Economist Erin Daley, this has emerged as one of the meeting’s dominant topics.

“These circumstances are making grain farming much more attractive than ranching, contributing to a shift in this region’s land use,” said Daley. She adds that while the Argentine government’s intent in limiting exports was to keep domestic beef supplies plentiful and prices low, the result has been quite the opposite as producers have shifted resources, beef supplies have tightened, and domestic beef consumption has declined sharply.

“Argentina’s policy of trying to maintain low domestic prices, because beef is such a staple in that country, has seriously backfired,” Daley said. “The constraints on exports have made it impossible for beef producers to be profitable because they are essentially under a price cap, and they cannot capitalize on improving global beef prices. This makes it that much more tempting to move land and resources in a different direction, such as planting soybeans. Combine these circumstances with a severe drought that was already causing a reduction in the herd, and you have a very tough environment for cattle producers.”

While these local issues have made a strong impression on conference attendees, the main focus of World Meat Congress 2010 is sustainability. Daley said the meeting attracts an impressive collection of experts to address the challenges faced by beef and pork producers across the world.

“It’s interesting to hear the concerns about environmental issues and the limitations the industry faces with regard to availability of land and other resources,” she said. “Going forward, there are many serious challenges with regard to maintaining and growing world meat production, and this conference allows us to hear a variety of interesting perspectives.”

More information is available at www.worldmeatcon gress2010.com. — WLJ