Business & Economy

Tiny, reliable Uruguay finds diverse markets for its agroexports

By Santiago Carbone

Montevideo, Mar 25 (efe-epa).- Uruguay, a tiny country nestled between fellow Southern Common Market (Mercosur) members Argentina and Brazil, has found numerous markets around the world for its range of agricultural products, with far-away China now the leading destination for its exports.

Beef, cellulose, soybeans, dairy products and rice are some of the goods that companies in the South American nation sell to customers in Asia, the European Union, the United States, Mexico, Argentina and elsewhere.

Adrian Tambler, director of the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries’ Office of Agricultural Programming and Policy, told Efe that Uruguay’s respect for the rules of the game and advanced livestock tracing system are two of the country’s most positive aspects.

He also explained that the country’s production systems and natural resources make it “very suitable” for agricultural output.

Daiana Ferraro, a professor and expert in regional integration, said for her part that the emphasis Uruguay has placed on the safety and protection of all of its crops, along with its livestock traceability system, have generated “a lot of credibility.”

Ferraro, a former coordinator of the Mercosur Secretariat, said that at the time of the launch of that South American trade bloc in the early 1990s Uruguayan production was “more oriented toward the region.”

The dean of the Catholic University of Uruguay’s Department of Business Sciences, Ignacio Bartesaghi, told Efe that one of the objectives of Mercosur was “the promotion of agricultural exports.”

However, at the beginning of this century, that bloc’s interregional trade “fell sharply” and exports were diverted to other markets.

China is currently Uruguay’s main trading partner and in 2020 was the destination of 27 percent of that nation’s goods exports (an amount valued at $2.15 billion).

Brazil and the EU were the second- and third-leading destinations, receiving 15 percent and 14 percent of Uruguay’s total goods exports, respectively.

Beef was Uruguay’s main export product in 2020, a year of major supply chain disruptions triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Total exports of that product amounted to $1.6 billion, an 11 percent drop relative to 2019.

Fernando Mattos, president of the National Meat Institute, a government agency, told Efe that the main benefit of Mercosur was the tariff-free access it provided to the Brazilian market for Uruguayan beef.

Bartesaghi also said a free-trade deal between EU and Mercosur, which was agreed upon in principle in 2019 but has not yet entered into force, will be “very favorable for the agroindustry” concerns of the South American trade bloc, and for Uruguay in particular.

Even so, he said the benefits of that deal will not change the equation for Uruguayan agroexports and that the solution lies instead in obtaining access to several markets simultaneously, particularly those in Asia.

Ferraro, for her part, said that even though Uruguay will have tariff-free access to Europe through the EU-Mercosur deal it remains unclear how much more the country will sell because the amount of its quota increase is still up in the air. EFE-EPA


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