Brazil's JBS remains optimistic on China despite short-term woes
2023-08-18 07:55:44

Speaking at an industry event on Thursday, JBS CEO Gilberto Tomazoni said he still believes Chinese beef consumption will rise over time as eating that kind of protein is “aspirational” in Chinese society.

He said five years ago China’s per capita beef consumption was about 5 kg (11 pounds) whereas now it is around 7 to 7.5 kg (15 to 17 pounds).

“When pork prices became cheap again in China, there was no change in the beef curve,” he said. “Beef consumption in China will rise in the long run.”


However, Brazilian beef exports to China in the first half fell 29% to $2.6 billion, and by volume the drop was 5% to 512,306 metric tons, trade data shows.

Eduardo Miron, the chief executive of family-owned Brazilian beefpacker Frigol, said at the same event that the slump is cause for concern. He also worries about currently low domestic consumption and exporters’ dependence “on a single importer,” referring to China.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report issued in March, Chinese demand in 2022 accounted for 64% of total Brazilian beef exports. The closest beef export destination for Brazil was the United States, with a 7.6% chunk.


In 2023, China’s beef imports may fall because its domestic output is expected to increase, said the USDA.

“After the end of lockdowns, the mad-cow related ban, we had the impression (China’s) demand would be as strong as in 2022,” said Miron, who was previously Marfrig’s chief executive and worked for Cargill. “We all got surprised.”

For meatpackers like Frigol, which only produces beef in Brazil, risks may be greater than for more globalized rivals.

“As the Brazilian cattle production cycle reaches its peak, the growing availability of cattle will pressure animal and beef prices downwards this year,” the USDA said.