EXCLUSIVE-Exports of Argentine beef to China and the EU, practically stopped by coronavirus

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BUENOS AIRES, Apr 3 (Reuters) – Argentine beef exports to its two main markets are practically stopped by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with China acquiring 15% of what it used to buy and shipments to the Union European (EU) detainees, industry representatives told Reuters.

Argentina is the fourth world exporter of beef and, according to data from the Argentine Government, in 2019 China received 75% of the total of 845,000 tons of cuts exported by the South American country, while the European block took 9% of those shipments.

However, quarantines and logistical difficulties caused by the spread of the virus that has already affected more than a million people worldwide and caused more than 52,000 deaths have hit global trade flows, including that of the product for which Argentina is better known.

“Export markets, due to the consequence of the (coronavirus) pandemic that we are going through, have reduced many of their purchases, they are extremely restricted,” said Mario Ravettino, president of the Consortium of Exporters of Argentine Meat ABC, which groups the meatpacking companies that they export the celebrated Argentine meat.

According to Ravettino, in March beef exports to China were only 15% of the almost 50,000 tons that – according to official data – were shipping to the Asian giant on a monthly basis at the end of last year.

And the reason for the sudden slowdown is the logistical difficulties of ports in Chinese territory generated by quarantine measures, which have also affected consumption patterns in a country where the demand for beef has grown in recent years, Ravettino explained.

The European market, a historical consumer of the most expensive cuts of Argentine meat, has also seen its demand for the South American country’s product slow down. Although, unlike China, it is practically paralyzed.

“Europe practically has all restaurants closed because they are in quarantine and beef in Europe is basically consumed in restaurants. So importers said ‘stop, don’t send me,'” said Miguel Schiariti, director of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. de Carnes argentina (CICCRA).

The Argentine exporting refrigerators have turned their production over to the domestic market to keep their plants operating, even if that means that the profit margin of the activity is lower than that of foreign trade.

“The behavior of the future is impossible to do at this time, so we are trying to cope in the best possible way with what we are going through now,” said Ravettino, who noted that, despite the current situation, activity in Argentine meat packing plants continues normally.

(Report by Maximilian Heath; Edited by Nicolás Misculin)

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