Latin American cattle herds represent a quarter of world total

13 July 2007

The last five years have seen a positive cycle in cattle ranching in Argentina. Cattle stock has increased from 50 million to 55 million and slaughter emerged from a decade long stagnation (12-13 million heads per year) to 14-15 million. This was partly due to the four million tons of corn used per year for supplementary bovine feeding.

There is, however, significant potential for growth since in theory Argentina could achieve a herd of 100 million head, twice its present stock. To achieve this higher stock however, investments and important technological support are needed to increase cattle herd productivity. Contrary to farming, where Argentina is a world model, in cattle ranching the nation has much to achieve. The Argentine industry has very competitive domestic production costs compared to international levels. Presently, the Argentine tanning industry is producing 14-15 million hides per year of which 80% is exported in crust, finished and some cut parts for the automotive and furniture industries. In total US$900 million per year are exported to 40 countries, of which the most important are: USA, China, Holland, and Mexico. However, very few leather manufactured products are being exported. Mexico Mexico is the third most important tanning country in Latin America. The North American Free Trade Agreement has brought both challenges and opportunities for the leather industry. The Mexican footwear industry, once quite protected from foreign imports, has had to adapt to compete with lower import tariffs allowing inflows of shoes from the Orient and Brazil. On the other hand leather production for automotive upholstery, an industry practically non-existent until recently, has developed with great success as a consequence of the many North American car part manufacturers who have moved from the USA to Mexico to benefit from cheaper labour. Mexico is the only Latin American country whose leather industry relies heavily not only on locally produced hides - about 7 million a year - but also imports, mainly from the USA.

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