The average consumption peak had occurred in 1956, when it reached 100.8 kilograms, according to the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Meat and Derivatives
Argentines’ consumption of beef fell to its historic low in 2020, about 49.7 kilograms per person, due to the fall in purchasing power and an opening towards chicken and pork.
The peak of average consumption of beef in the southern country, which together with Uruguay shares the world podium per person, had occurred in 1956, when it reached 100.8 kilograms, according to data from the Chamber of Meat Industry and Commerce. and Derivados de Argentina (Ciccra).
“We have been falling in the consumption of beef gradually and slowly. It is likely that we will end up in consumption similar to those of developed countries“, the president of the Ciccra, Miguel Schiariti, tells Efe, referring to more moderate consumption of this type of meat such as that of the United States (35 kilograms per person) or the European Union (20 kilograms).
Relentless inflation in the midst of the crisis
It is the increase in the price of meat – 74.8% year-on-year in December 2020, according to the IERAL laboratory of ideas of the Mediterranean Foundation – which leads citizens to turn to other varieties, such as chicken, which increased 58 % and the pig, 59%.
If the 44 kilos of chicken and 14 of pork are added to the 49.7 kilos of beef consumed per person, the consumption of the three varieties climbed last year to about 108 kilograms per inhabitant.
Change in habits in the consumption of beef that occur in a context of record levels of production and export of animal protein in Argentina, which has been in recession for almost three years -with high levels of inflation and a drop in purchasing power- aggravated by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Different types of cuts for inside and outside the country
Used to observing habit changes At the counter, Emmanuel Lapetina, from the Frigorífico La Peña, in the Central Market of Buenos Aires, tells the Efe agency that the change in the composition of the amount of beef that Argentines eat is “strictly” due to a price issue. .
Explain what domestic consumption of beef was affected last year “by a price bid”, due to the effect of exports on domestic prices, which is added to the general inflation level (36.1% in all of 2020): “People turn to other types of meat depending on how the monthly price is.”
For Oscar Subarroca, president of the Liniers Market in Buenos Aires, exports, which are at a historically high level (about 917,000 tons), play in a different lane from national consumption, because they are two types of different quality farms.
And it is understood that the more exports there are, the more there will be roast, vacuum and slaughter, the favorite cuts of Argentines, because they are not sold abroad.
According to Subarroca, the price of the farm rises due to the increase in the cost of corn that serves as food for the animal and from replacement cost of the steers, and also considers that “the steer that is being sold in the market is not selling at the value that it should be, it should be higher.”
Schiariti adds that due to the increase in costs, the farmers took the cows to graze instead of fattening them with corn, a slower production process that, together with the tax closure of the year, decreased the supply, which collided with the increase in demand for the opening of activities after the months of quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic: “It was an explosive combination.”
The export boom
Argentina has already gone through the ‘fight’ between the internal and external beef market in the past decade and for next year one of the concerns of producers is public policies to contain inflation in an electoral year – new ones are elected parliamentarians – that could affect exports.
“In the sector there is a great fear that old mistakes will be repeated,” says Schiariti, after recalling the market intervention policies and export quotas during 2008 and 2009 to contain domestic prices, which liquidated 20% of the livestock stock, some 12.5 million head, of which half has not yet been recovered, up to 53 million today.
Today Argentina exports 28.9% of what it produces (compared to 8% in 2015) and 71.1% consume it internally, on a higher production of 3.17 million tons, the third highest vaccine production in the last 25 years, according to Ciccra.
That record level of production would not have translated into turnover, according to the sector: as of November 2020, beef generated foreign exchange for exports of about 2,511.1 million dollars, 8.7% below the previous year.
“Argentina has the obligation to open more markets in Southeast Asia to prevent the Chinese from manipulating us with prices,” says Schiariti.
Today 7.5 out of 10 kilograms of beef are sold to China, but he understands that in the next 20 years Southeast Asia will be the center of the world meat trade due to the increase in purchasing power.
The other relevant markets in tons are Israel, Chile and the US, although the most important in price is the European Union.