The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Brazil office released its latest forecast for Brazilian meat output and markets this week and, unsurprisingly, further increases are expected.

Cattle production is forecast to increase by 1% in 2023 to 48.5m head, though a decline of 4% is forecast for 2024.

The reason given for this is that Brazil is currently at the bottom of the cattle cycle and farmers are reducing numbers. This is reflected in a five-year low price being paid for beef off-farm and factory slaughter numbers are forecast to increase by 7% this year and a further 2% in 2024.

This will mean an increase in beef output from factories and USDA estimates that the volume will reach 11.16m tonnes carcase weight equivalent (CWE), 8% more than in 2022 and increasing a further 2% to 11.38m tonnes CWE in 2024.

USDA is forecasting that Brazil’s beef exports will reach 3.35m tonnes CWE in 2023 and 3.4m tonnes next year, with exports representing 30% of the country's beef production.

Pigs and pigmeat

Brazil’s pig herd and pork production is also forecast to increase this year and next by USDA.

A 5% increase is forecast for this year to just over 47m, rising to 49.62m head next year. Improved profit margins are also forecast due to lower feed costs.

Pig slaughter numbers are also forecast to increase, with a 5% increase in slaughter numbers this year followed by a 4% increase next year, leading to a 7% and 5% increase in the volume of pork output each year.

Domestic consumption of pork is forecast to increase 6% this year to 3.22m tonnes CWE and to 3.35m tonnes CWE next year.

All indicators point to Brazil increasing output of beef and pigmeat in the coming years.

With an increase in female cattle slaughter this year and particularly low prices, there will be a sharp short-term increase in output, which will be followed by a period of restocking.

However, all the longer-term trends are that Brazilian beef output will continue to increase for at least the decade ahead, though perhaps not at as fast a rate as had been the case over recent years.

There is no doubt that the election of President Lula has led to a crackdown on forest clearance, which increased beef production capacity.

With Brazil waiting for the Mercosur trade deal with the EU to be approved, there is a growing realisation that the world is watching Brazilian beef production.

This will slow down the rate of increase in production, but it won't reverse it. Apparent continuing increase in demand from China will provide a ready market outlet as well.