U.S. trade rules shape new pattern of Brazil’s beef exports to the United States

Line chart showing monthly shipments of beef from Brazil to the United States between 2000 and 2023.

Brazil’s beef exports to the United States have grown rapidly since the easing of U.S. restrictions on imports of fresh beef from Brazil in 2020. In addition, Brazil’s beef exports have shifted in seasonality toward a trend of late-year shipments caused by a tariff-rate quota that resets on January 1 of each year. With tariff-rate quotas, imports are first subject to a smaller tariff, then once a specific volume of imports is met, any additional imports are subject to a higher tariff. U.S.-bound beef exports from Brazil first surged in late 2021. After trailing off in 2022, exports to the United States surged again later that year then once again in late 2023. Brazil starts shipping product to the United States late in the year to arrive when the quota reopens on January 1. Once the quota is filled, the higher beef tariff reduces Brazil’s competitiveness in the U.S. beef market, causing exports to slow. Total U.S. imports, a measure of the shipments once they reach U.S. soil, were once strongest during the second or third quarter. However, large amounts of beef from Brazil now arrive in January, resulting in expectations for higher imports in the first quarter. The quarterly forecast for U.S. beef imports in 2024 reflects this new seasonality. As of February 12, the 2024 quota was already more than 85 percent filled, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commodity Status Report. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service’s February 2024 Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook.

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