Almost half a million head of cattle were slaughtered in the first half of the year in the cold-storage plants in Córdoba. The level of activity represents 6.6 percent or 30 thousand more than in the first half of 2019, according to preliminary figures published by the National Directorate of Agricultural Commercial Control (DNCCA).
The data constitutes an initial approximation to a particular phenomenon that the meat industry experienced during the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic and the imposition of mandatory isolation measures: it is one of the few activities that, far from falling, has continued to grow.
In fact, during the quarantine period, production was even higher: by disaggregating the data by month, it can be seen that in the second quarter slaughter increased 7.2 percent, while in the first quarter it had increased 6.2 percent.
Between April and June, the 24 refrigerators authorized in Córdoba slaughtered some 251,000 heads; about 17 thousand more than the 234 thousand of the same period last year. Taking into account that 225 kilos of meat are extracted on average from each beef, it means almost four million kilos more dumped on the market.
An additional fact that shows the boost that the meat chain has maintained is that, with 87,693 heads, June was the month with the highest year-on-year growth in 2020: 16.8 percent.
Although the activity in the plants was never slowed down throughout the isolation, as it was considered essential, the absence of workers infected with the virus also contributed to all the establishments operating normally.
According to the president of the Federation of Argentine Regional Refrigeration Industries (Fifra), Daniel Urcía, this phenomenon is explained by both the push from the domestic market and from exports.
“Demand has remained active: those who have been able to maintain some level of income, which they cannot allocate for recreation or the acquisition of goods, use it to buy meat, including cuts that are not traditional for household consumption, such as steaks of chorizo ”, analyzed Urcía.
According to their estimates, domestic consumption could be growing between three and four kilos per inhabitant (annual average).
Asian vacuum cleaner
On the foreign trade side, China, after a first stage of the year in which it stopped imports due to Covid-19, is now demanding volumes similar to those of the end of 2019.
Last May, for example, it took 88 percent of Argentine exports, according to a report by the Institute for the Promotion of Argentine Beef (IPCVA).
On this point, Urcía noted that in the first half of 2019, foreign trade was just beginning to go through the peak it reached by the end of the year; that is, if the current slaughter figures were compared with those of the last semester of last year, they would probably give lower growth.
The Logros meat processing plant in Río Segundo is the largest slaughterhouse and the only exporter of bovine cuts in Córdoba: so far this year, it has sacrificed almost 70,000 heads, 14 percent of the total.
Its manager, José María Roca, coincided with Urcía’s diagnosis: “There is a deeply rooted concept in Argentina that meat consumption in some way dignifies. Many families who have not been able to allocate their resources to something else, have taken advantage to buy and even expensive cuts, “he said.
Roca also expressed surprise because even the domestic market has validated price increases in the midst of the crisis.
Regarding foreign trade, he confirmed that China’s demand is still very active, but there are some yellow lights in these operations: the Asian giant is paying almost 30 percent less than at the end of last year and has become very jealous with controls to prevent the entry of merchandise that may be carrying the new coronavirus.
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