Mexican beef exporters look to Muslim markets as US alternatives

Domestically produced Chinese beef is on sale at a supermarket in Beijing, on Friday. (AP)
Updated 13 May 2017
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Mexican beef exporters look to Muslim markets as US alternatives

MEXICO CITY/CHICAGO: Mexico’s growing beef industry is targeting Muslim consumers in the Middle East for its prime cuts as it seeks to reduce dependence on buyers in the US.
The potential for a US-Mexico trade war under President Donald Trump has accelerated efforts by Mexican beef producers to explore alternative foreign markets to the US, which buys 94 percent of their exports worth nearly $1.6 billion last year.
Trump has vowed to redraw terms of trade with Mexico and Canada to the benefit of the US. Mexican beef companies fear they may be dragged into a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the three countries.
That has firms looking to the Middle East, where most meat is imported from non-Muslim countries using animals slaughtered by the halal method prescribed by the Islamic law.
Mexico, the world’s sixth biggest beef producer, plans to quadruple exports of halal beef to 44 million pounds (20,000 tons) by the end of 2018 from 11 million pounds (5,000 tons) this year, according to data from AMEG, the Mexican cattle growers association.
The country should have 15 plants certified to produce halal meat by the end of next year, up from a current six, according to AMEG data.
Jesus Vizcarra, chief executive and owner of SuKarne, Mexico’s biggest beef exporter, said his company sees big potential for sales to Muslim-majority countries.
“We have to seek out more markets,” he said in an interview, pointing to near-term targets in Egypt, the UAE, Qatar and Lebanon.
“There is an opportunity in these Middle Eastern countries,” said Vizcarra, who is known in Mexico as the King of Beef and has boasted of being born in a slaughterhouse.
Mexico’s cattle growers’ association sent a trade mission to Dubai and Qatar in late February to meet potential buyers, said Rogelio Perez, AMEG’s top trade official.
Inspectors from the UAE will visit Mexico by June after Saudi inspectors were in Mexico in March, he said.
“They left with a very good taste in their mouths regarding Mexican production systems,” he said.
Plants must be certified as halal compliant by third-party companies such as US-based Halal Transactions of Omaha or UAE-based RACS.
Earlier this year, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, expressed interest in buying Mexican beef for the first time although no deals have yet been cut.
Sales to Muslim countries would take a bite out of the market share for halal meat held by beef packers from the US and Brazil, according to industry and trade sources.
Mexico’s beef industry is able to grow its export markets due to a successful push to meet exacting US standards and modernize the sector over the past two decades.
That has put Mexican packers in a strong position to diversify away from the US market.
“It was our big strength until President Donald arrived, and now it is our major weakness,” said Bosco de la Vega, president of Mexico’s state farm council, adding that Mexico should limit beef exports to the US to a maximum of half the overall flow.
He said Mexico could do so in the next five years.
Russia is considering buying large volumes of Mexican beef and Mexico is also seeking to expand shipments to existing buyers like Japan and South Korea.
Mexico’s herd hit a record 31 million animals in 2015 and totaled 30.8 million in 2016, producing 4.142 billion pounds and exports of 712 million pounds.
Top exporters Brazil, India and Australia each export over 2.5 billion pounds.
“We are on the path of diversification,” Mexican Agriculture Minister Jose Calzada recently told reporters. “And we will not stop because these occasional insults from the US toward Mexico have opened our eyes.”


Davos turns its attention to those left behind by globalization: Interview with Mirek Dusek, WEF director

Updated 22 January 2019
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Davos turns its attention to those left behind by globalization: Interview with Mirek Dusek, WEF director

DAVOS: Mirek Dusek, senior WEF director, spoke to Arab News on the eve of the summit to reveal what will be on the agenda.

Q: What are the big themes of Davos 2019?
A: The theme of this year’s event is divided into two parts. One is globalization 4.0 and the other is about creating a new architecture for international cooperation. We believe that the world is entering quickly a new wave of “globalization.”
We have had different waves of globalization in our history and as a result, we have become integrated in terms of economies. We have lifted many people from around the world from poverty, which has led to immense economic growth driven increasingly by trade. But we have missed something, which is really that the rewards of this have not been shared equitably within nations in particular. So many people point to real incomes in the US, for example.
The rewards for the average American from globalization stopped back in the 1980s and 1990s. So while we realize that globalization is the reality around us, we believe we are entering a new wave that is driven by technological advancement.
We see the fourth industrial revolution all around us, so we believe we are gathered at a really important time to think through how we fix some of the shortcomings we have had in the past. The other part is how we can make sure that we equip the institutional framework to deal with this reality. What do we need to tweak around trade? What is needed in terms of consultation around climate change?
How do we make sure we have a functioning system of helping refugees around the world? These are the things high on the agenda that are quite hard to answer, but that does not mean we should ignore them.

Q: Not many Davos attendees are on zero-hour contracts. Given all the inequality we see in developed and emerging economies, is there more cynicism about the practical usefulness of events like these?
A: Back in the 1990s, Professor Schwab had a lot of foresight in publishing a piece exactly about this.
How do you make sure despite all the excitement about that wave of globalization that you do not leave people behind.
We all see that within nations, and they can be very diverse, from developed to emerging markets, there is a sense that some people have been left behind and that is a clear challenge for decision makers to face.
This meeting and the organization overall is really around providing a platform to accelerate positive change. If you take health for example, we’ve been working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
We see our role as a platform for action by not only political leaders where they provide a policy framework, but also by a lot of the development institutions and business to come together and address some of the deficiencies in the system — like when we identified the deficiency around vaccination.

Q: To what extent is the rise in populism we have witnessed worldwide related to the fourth industrial revolution?
A: There have been other industrial revolutions, eras in which we saw rapid technological change — changing the way people organized themselves or how economies were structured — and so there has always been a level of uncertainty over what this change might bring. We have established a network of centers for technology governance. The sole purpose of that is to be on the front foot and enable governments to catch up with the tremendous development of these technologies. We are also looking at the trends in automation and what it may mean for the jobs of the future. We have a whole piece of work looking at the future of jobs. Nobody knows exactly what it will look like but if we look at past industrial revolutions, the adaptation has been quite remarkable.
Humanity has always found ways to cope with the change and you could argue the upside prevailed. But it is important we don’t underestimate this challenge, particularly in policymaking because if governments don’t have the capacity to react or think through these implications, we could be arriving at a reality that is given to us by random developments.

Q: Davos has always been good at presenting the big questions facing humanity, but what about providing measurable answers?
A: The fourth industrial revolution is an area in which we look for outcomes. I don’t want to pre-empt the announcements, but we are launching partnerships with governments to help them with specific issues. We have already worked in Rwanda with a team that does drone regulation — given how important drones are in that country for the delivery of blood, for example. Of course, we have collaboration with governments and businesses on cyber.
The final thing is around our work with peace and reconciliation. We have a track record for providing a platform here for actors who at least want to explore ideas of how to overcome certain fault lines from conflicts around the world.
This year, we are holding a record number of these meetings that we call Davos diplomacy dialogues. For the conflict in Syria, we are having the UN special envoy for Syria come here and hold a meeting. We are also doing dialogues on Venezuela, the Western Balkans and between Russia and Europe.