Despite being locked out of 56% of the world’s beef-importing countries because of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), including the lucrative markets of Korea and Japan, Brazil still accounts for 32% of the world’s beef exports.

Fernando Galletti de Queiroz, CEO of Minerva SA, Brazil’s third-largest beef processor, says, “Unlike Australia or New Zealand, Brazil is not protected by a coastline and viruses do not respect a land border.”

But Brazil is sending vets to improve the sanitary status of its neighbors in an attempt to eradicate the problems at the source, he says, a tall order as 10 Latin American countries share a border with Brazil. Brazil is donating vaccinations and technology in a giant project it hopes will eventually clear the entire South American content of FMD within 10 years.

In a bid to “open up new and lucrative markets to Brazil, de Queiroz says work is also underway in building roads to connect Brazil to Pacific ports. “At present, all beef leaves the country via the Atlantic ports, making the shipping costs to Asia uncompetitive."

Brazil has 394 million hectares of farm land (a hectare is equivalent to 2.47 acres) available for beef production and has no need to cut another tree. Currently only 68 million hectares are being used to produce beef cattle.

Having long realized the problems of feeding cattle on grain, only 1.3% of the national herd is fattened in feedlots. Brazil is now moving toward more intensive grazing systems, fueled by the endless water supply available in the region.

In addition, crossbreeding programs are being encouraged, especially between the predominant Nelore breed and Angus and Simmental cattle.

“We have barely scratched the surface of what is possible in terms of beef production,” de Queiroz says. In the last seven years, Brazil has increased its beef exports fivefold.
-- Muriel Elizabeth Hayes, Buenos Aires, Argentina