Meat Market: Brazil's Halal Export Explosion
April 24, 2014
When Arab economies expand, Brazil is one of the great beneficiaries. Brazil’s total trade with the Arab world has more than doubled over the past ten years, reaching over $20 billion in 2013. Whereas many countries have large trade deficits with oil producers in the Middle East, Brazil is deep in surplus: it isn’t hungry for oil imports, but Middle East consumers are hungry for its meat.
Nearly half of Arab countries’ meat imports in 2012 came from Brazil, and the Arab world as a whole bought 17 million tons of Brazilian food products in 2013, including over $4 billion worth of meat. The trade is growing quickly. Brazil tripled its meat exports to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries between 2004 and 2012, and now earns more from trading meat to the GCC than to the entire European Union. Saudi Arabia is Brazil’s largest Arab trading partner, followed closely by the United Arab Emirates and Algeria.
A robust halal certification industry in Brazil—first established by Arab migrants to South America a half-century ago—is part of what makes this trade possible. Although a recent census suggests Brazil has just over 35,000 Muslims, the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce reports that over 100 beef producers in Brazil now claim to produce halal meat.
Despite the relatively small number of Muslims, the government clearly sees the halal export market as a strategic growth opportunity. Brazilian ministries collaborate with independent halal certification companies to streamline exports. The trade is so strong, several Brazilian companies even label their packages in Arabic.
This piece is a part of Mezze, a monthly short article series spotlighting societal trends across the region. It originally appeared in the Middle East Program's monthly newsletter, Middle East Notes and Comment. For more information and to receive our mailings, please contact the Middle East Program.