In part one of this review, we explored how US beef export volumes declined in 2023.

They were the only one of the big three - which also includes Brazil and Australia - to report a decline in volumes compared with the previous year.

Brazil ended the year as the number one beef exporter by a considerable distance ahead of the US in second place. For Australia, 2023 was the year when the herd rebuild was complete following the prolonged drought.


Brazil exported around 2.25m tonnes of beef in 2023, similar to 2022 volumes. With official data for the first 11 months of the year available, volumes were at 2.1m tonnes and this means for three of the last four years, Brazil has exported over 2m tonnes of beef, which is double the volumes of a decade ago.

The growth in Brazil’s beef exports coincided with the surge in demand from China for imported beef. That market has grown from just a few thousand tonnes in 2012 to 2.3m tonnes in the first 10 months of 2023.

With Brazil having beef to sell and China looking for beef to buy, it is no surprise that Brazil is the top supplier of imported beef to China and that China is by a distance Brazil’s main beef export market.

China’s import data between January and October 2023 shows 942,000t coming from Brazil. Data from ABIEC, which represents Brazil’s meat processors, shows volumes exported to China at 1.1m tonnes up to the end of November 2023 out of total export volumes of the 2.1m tonne total.

A further 346,000t of Brazil’s beef exports were to Hong Kong, with Egypt its next-most important market taking 165,000t. The EU, which had previously been Brazil’s major export market, received 107,000t in the first 11 months of 2023.


The recovery in Australia’s beef exports was the major beef story of 2023. In the 11 months to the end of November, beef export volumes were 976,000t, up from 855,000t for the entire year in 2022.

It is likely that it will be the highest annual exports for beef since 2019, when, at peak drought cull, export volumes reached 1.2m tonnes.

Drought caused a major destocking of cattle and sheep in Australia in 2019 and 2020, but the herd and flocks are now fully rebuilt.

Australia’s main export markets are in Asia and the USA. For the first 11 months of 2023, 187,793t of beef had been exported to China, just marginally ahead of the 187,789t exported to Japan.

South Korea is the third-largest export market for this period, taking 173,466t, while 164,359t was shipped to the east coast of the US, with a further 45,727t shipped to the west coast.

A market for Australian beef that will be of interest to Irish farmers is the UK. The UK-Australia trade agreement came into effect in June 2023 and while export volumes are still tiny at 2,053t to the end of November, this represents a massive increase of 183% on the previous year.

Other significant exporters

Argentina is the fourth-largest beef exporter in the world and its volumes are estimated by the USDA to have increased in 2023 to 840,000t carcase weight equivalent (CWE), up from 823t in 2022.

New Zealand is estimated at 675,000t CWE, while Canada is estimated at 560,000t CWE for 2023.

Irish beef exports are in this zone and volumes for 2023 will be revealed next week by Bord Bia. In 2022, Ireland exported 502,000t product weight.

Difference in product weight and carcase weight

Product weight is the actual weight of beef shipped, while carcase weight equivalent is the volume of beef prior to bones and fat being removed in processing. Using the standard conversion coefficient, product weight is calculated as being 73% of carcase weight (USDA).

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Review of major beef exporters in 2023