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By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that Brazil was once again the world’s biggest exporter of meat in 2012, after coming second to Australia in 2011. However, as BBC Brasil reports, Brazil may not hold the position long, as India’s meat export industry has strengthened considerably to second place, ahead of Australia, and may soon overtake Brazil.

Beef meat, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Brazil exported 1.52 million tonnes of meat in 2012 – more than any other country, photo by Avlxyz/Flickr Creative Commons License.

Brazil exported 1.52 million tonnes of meat in 2012, whereas Australia exported 1.41 million tonnes. India exported just 4,000 tonnes more than Australia, therefore securing second place.

Analysts now expect India to have leapfrogged Brazil when figures for 2013 are revealed next year.

However, according to the Brazilian Association of Meat Exporters (ABIEC), India’s rise to industry leader does not mean the sector will be less profitable for Brazil, as the two countries are not competing for the same markets.

ABIEC revealed that last year was their companies’ more profitable, with US$5.77 billion of meat sold, beating the previous record from 2008 by 6.8 percent.

India produces less than half the meat produced in Brazil, but exports nearly everything it produces – unlike Brazil, which has a significant domestic market. Moreover, as cows are sacred in the Asian country and have legal protection, India instead sells buffalo meat, which is considered inferior to beef on the international market.

Therefore, Brazil’s true competition remains Australia and the U.S. – now the third and fourth biggest exporters of meat, respectively – which battle over high-value markets, such as Japan, South Korea and the EU. Experts say that unlike these competitors, Brazil still has the room and the resources to expand its meat industry, and is expected to continue growing.

This may come as unwelcome news to Amazon forest conservationist. A 2011 report showed that the biggest deforestation in the region was attributed to cattle ranches, responsible for a massive 62 percent of the 719,200 square kilometers (277 square miles), compared with just five percent attributed to agriculture.

Read more (in Portuguese).

* The Rio Times Daily Updates feature is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.

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