The top six Islamic importers of Brazil's chicken meat bought 1,369,791 tons last year, down 2.68 percent from 2016, according to Salaam Gateway calculation.
Last year's figure is based on data from the Brazilian Animal Protein Association (ABPA) emailed to Salaam Gateway on February 21, and the 2016 figure is based on ABPA's Annual Report 2017.
The drop in import volume by the six Islamic countries is due to a 20.97 percent plunge on the part of Saudi Arabia, which bought 589,873 tons in 2017 compared to 746,420 tons in 2016.
However, the good news for Brazilian exporters was that this was offset by substantial spikes in imports by Egypt and Iraq.
Iraq imported 68.17 percent more of Brazil's chicken meat in 2017 to 120,851 tons and Egypt imported 67.51 percent more to 162,828 tons. Kuwait imported 7.13 percent more of Brazil's chicken meat.
Sales to UAE and Oman were almost flat, nudging down 0.41 percent and 2.85 percent, respectively.
The reduction in imports by the Middle East's biggest economy is due to a combination of three factors: 1) The restriction of Brazil's meat and poultry imports following the food fraud scandal in March last year, 2) The reduction in domestic consumption, and 3) The kingdom's own efforts at chicken self-sufficiency.
Brazil food fraud scandal
Saudi was the first country in the Middle East to restrict both poultry and beef imports from Brazil on March 23 last year following news on March 17 of the food fraud scandal in Latin America's biggest economy. The kingdom temporarily banned imports from companies in Brazil under police investigation.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) attributes the drop in Saudi poultry imports to lower domestic consumption, and hence demand, mainly due to the departure of several thousand expats from the kingdom. USDA estimated domestic consumption in 2017 at 1.5 metric tons, a decline of about six percent from 2016. The USDA regularly publishes sector-related reports covering markets that are reached by U.S. businesses.
Saudi Arabia has also been working on improving its chicken self-sufficiency, with the strategic goal of meeting 60 percent of domestic consumption in the next five years. Self-sufficiency currently stands at around 50 percent.
Domestic chicken production was estimated at 760,000 tons in 2017, up slightly from 755,000 tons the previous year, according to the USDA.