U.S. Meat Exports to Chile Surge in 2012

Chile's ban on Paraguayan beef paves way for increased American exports

Published on: Feb 20, 2013

In 2012, U.S. beef and pork exports to Chile broke the $100 million mark – $59.1 million for beef and $42.6 million for pork – and reached a milestone, given that U.S. meat products just recently established an initial presence in the Chilean market.

Just five years ago, U.S. pork exports totaled only about $4 million and beef exports were less than $1 million. As recently as 2010, pork exports to Chile were still less than $10 million and beef exports totaled only about $6 million.

According to the U.S. meat Export Federation, a variety of factors contributed to this rapid surge in U.S. exports, including market access improvements for U.S. products and an expanding middle class with a growing appetite for high-quality meat products.

Chiles ban on Paraguayan beef paves way for increased American exports
Chile's ban on Paraguayan beef paves way for increased American exports

Further, key competitors were temporarily absent from the market. One of those competitors, Paraguay, was banned from the Chilean market on foot-and-mouth disease concerns. However, even as Paraguay is set to re-enter the Chilean market, this year USMEF's South America Representative Jessica Julca says she does not expect grain-fed U.S. beef to lose ground because of its unique position in the market.

"The position of U.S. is a bit different because we are talking about lean beef from Paraguay, so it's more a competitor for Australian beef, for example, not for U.S.," Julca says in a USMEF interview. "The U.S. is in a good position because we are sending choice beef, which has more marbling, so people now consuming U.S. beef won't change to Paraguayan."

Julca does, however, see the Chilean market as a prospect for even more export growth.

"I think we could increase the volume. Last year, we started sending different cuts, for example ribeye or short ribs, so it’s a broad variety of cuts in Chile now."

Based in Lima, Peru, Julca has more than a decade of meat industry experience in both quality control and marketing. She was placed in 2011 when the U.S. Meat Export Federation identified Chile as a key target for growth when it established a more aggressive marketing presence in South America in 2011.

On the pork side, Julca says production setbacks for Chile's largest pork supplier (Agrosuper, which had to close a major facility in Freirina), combined with Chile's desire to continue growing its overseas pork exports, will generate continued growth opportunities in Chile for high-quality U.S. pork.

"Industry says that the export will continue steady … of course that will benefit U.S. pork," Julca says.