Who exports Brazilian beef?

by Simone Bauch and Ben Ayre

Brazil’s cattle sector is growing, photo: jai Mansson via flickr.com, creative commons licence

(For Portuguese version, see: https://medium.com/trase/quem-exporta-e-importa-a-carne-bovina-do-brasil-401404c150e8 )

Beef is big business for Brazil — and it is a growing industry. The latest report from the Brazilian Association of Meat Exporting Industries (ABIEC)(Pt) shows that the importance of cattle ranching to Brazil’s gross domestic product. The GDP from the cattle sector has increased by 12% compared with the previous year (BRL458.2 billion in 2016).

In 2016 Brazil produced 9.14 million tons of beef, of which 1.4 million tons of beef were exported, generating over USD5 billion in revenue.

Most Brazilian beef is raised on pasture, covering 164.70 million hectares of land, compared to 58.4 million hectares planted with crops in the country. Beef is the dominant land use in agricultural frontiers, and cattle can be an important asset for smallholders, who often sell calves to bigger, commercial farms. This makes it one of the few commodities through which family farmers engage with global markets.

Which companies export Brazilian beef?

Using Trase, an open access online platform for increased supply chain transparency, it is possible to see who exported this beef.

Trase data shows that the market for beef exports is quite concentrated in Brazil. Three major companies (JBS, Minerva and Marfrig) accounted for over 60% of the exports for 2016. JBS is the biggest of the three, accounting for over 500 thousand tons of exported beef.

While the dominance of these major players seems to be decreasing over time (down from 68% in 2012), the number of exporting companies has remained quite stable (with around 110 companies exporting beef each year). This means the biggest exporters are losing some of their market share to other existing players. The graph below shows how the market shares for the three main exporters have fluctuated in the last few years:

Leading Brazilian beef exporters, 2012–2016

Trase data allows us to evaluate the role and performance of individual companies in terms of exported volumes and revenue. It allows us to follow the supply chain to see who is importing the beef, and to which country.

We can see where companies are opening up new markets, or how the behaviour of these exporters is changing over time. We can also track the demand for Brazilian beef from individual importing countries.

New data provides even more detail

Trase will soon have much more detailed information on supply chains of Brazilian beef, linking municipalities of production, to exporting and importing companies, through to the importing countries. These new data, expected later in 2018, will allow anyone to track the beef being imported into any given country back to the municipality where it was produced.

Because Trase also includes information on environmental and social indicators for each municipality, buyers will be able to assess the social and environmental risks associated with production, as well as opportunities to improve sustainable production practices, helping inform vital sourcing and investment decisions.

Trase’s aim is that transparency will generate a virtuous cycle, where better and more sustainable producers will benefit from preferred sourcing and investments. Similar information is already available on the Trase platform for Brazilian and Paraguayan soy and will soon be available for other commodities, including Brazilian corn, cotton and sugar, Paraguayan beef, Argentinean soy and beef, Colombian coffee and Indonesian palm oil.

Simone Bauch is Latin America director and Ben Ayre is a research assistant at Global Canopy

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