South America: an emerging competitor for Australia's beef industry

​​Authors: Matthew Hyde, Sally Thorpe, Adrian Waring, Brian Moir and Caroline Gunning-Trant.

Map of South American land use.
South American land use.

Market access the key to beef export growth

The growth in beef exports from South America since 2000 has mainly stemmed from improved market access, allowing the region to position itself as one of Australia’s significant competitors. ABARES has released this assessment in South America: an emerging competitor for Australia’s beef industry.

The report says beef is an important agricultural export for both Australia and South America—together, they account for almost half of world trade.

As global demand for beef expands over the next several decades, especially in Asia, there will be significant opportunities for exporters.

South America is increasingly well positioned to compete in those markets. The beef industries of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay have undergone marked changes over the past 15 years. Investments in their industries have led to improved production efficiency, disease management and supply chain traceability resulting in significant production and export growth, particularly in Brazil. The report says South American beef exports have typically been destined for markets not shared by Australia. But South America beef has increasingly been gaining access to markets which were once inaccessible, such as China.

As a result, Australian beef is now competing in some major markets against lower cost Brazilian product. Although Australia’s export growth since 2000 has also been principally driven by improved market access, as a higher-cost supplier Australia will need to continue to focus on access to premium markets to maintain its status as a high-quality and environmentally sustainable beef producer.

The strengthening global demand for protein and for safe and reliable food will provide opportunities for Australia to position itself among those exporters who can deliver to higher-end markets.

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Read the report


This report profiles the beef industries of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, as well as Australia, and evaluates the trends and key factors behind the growth in real export values since 2000. Forward looking scenario analysis based on actual and hypothetical changes to policies and operating environments is undertaken to assess the potential impacts on Australia's future beef exports.



Technical annex

The ABARES bilateral trade decomposition model is a technical annex provides a description of the quantitative economic model used in South America: an emerging competitor for Australia's beef industry. The report focuses on the beef industries of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Australia.




Last reviewed: 18 June 2020
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