Montevideo, Uruguay (UPI) Aug 3, 2010
More Russians are tucking into Uruguayan beef as the credit crunch continues to affect demand for the meat in traditional West European markets and other countries struggling with economic recovery.
Official statistics showed that Russia became the Latin American nation's main customer for beef in the first half of 2010 and the trend appears set to continue through the rest of the year.
Despite gross inequalities in income distribution, commented upon by researchers and media, Russian dietary habits underwent major changes since the rise of the state on the ashes of the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991.
Most upwardly mobile Russians, responsible for the surge in beef demand, have no memory -- except knowledge acquired through family lore -- of waiting for hours in bitter cold for morsels of sub-standard meat.
China, another country that shook off its protein deprivation when it embraced "socialist capitalism," is set to become a major market for Uruguay beef, latest trade data showed. Uruguay showed off its produce by having a big barbecue at Uruguay's stand in the Shanghai World Expo.
Uruguay traders said they expected the Russian position to hold -- unless it is overtaken by China. From January through July, Uruguayan processors exported 74,535 tons of beef to Russia -- a big jump from 46,594 tons during the same period a year ago.
The trade figure represents a 60 percent increase in sales in spite of the softer prices offered by Russian buyers.
In the first half of 2009, the Russian Federation accounted for 22.1 percent of Uruguay's overseas sales of meat. Now its share stands at 31.7 percent and is likely to increase. The Russian consumption helped compensate Uruguayan exporters for the fall in demand and prices from the European Union.
Luckily for Uruguay and in an indication of Central and North American consumer habits, beef purchases by the United States, Canada and Mexico remained virtually unchanged at 32,314 tons, from 32,407 tons during the same period in 2009.
Critics of the Uruguay market trends said Russian imports offered a temporary relief to the local livestock industry, which was still facing business failures. Reports suggested Uruguayans are paying up to four times the prices they paid for beef 5 years ago.
Meanwhile, Russian problems with its wheat crop raised fears Russia could cut back on its exports of wheat, forcing global wheat prices upward.
Russia was the world's fourth largest wheat exporter in the 12 months to June behind the United States, the European Union and Canada, U.S. Department of Agriculture figures showed.
Although Russian officials avoided answering questions on final wheat harvest,
U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service said that wheat production in Russia will be down 19 percent at 50 million metric tons.?
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