Brazil leading exports depend on China: 70% of soybeans and 63% of iron ore
Brazil’s main trading partner, China, is the destination for over a quarter of total Brazilian exports, involving more than US$90 billion in 2022 in transactions of commodities such as soy, crude oil, and iron ore – products that dominate the bilateral agenda between the two nations.
Brazil’s trade with the Asian superpower resulted in a US$30 billion surplus, half of the total surplus in the Brazilian trade balance.
These figures underscore China’s importance to Brazilian foreign trade, but also Brazil’s dependence on Chinese purchases of raw commodities, as President Lula da Silva’s government tries to open up more markets.
According to data from Brazil’s Foreign Trade Secretariat, exports to China (including Hong Kong and Macau) totaled US$91.26 billion last year, out of a total US$335 billion overseas sales.
Soy, beef, pulp, sugar, chicken meat, cotton, and pork are seven of the ten most exported goods from Brazil to China, earning Brazilian exporters around US$48 billion in 2022.
Oil and iron ore shipments from Brazil to China totaled almost US$35 billion in 2022, an amount that, added to agricultural exports come close to US$83 billion.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, shipments to China accounted for US$50.8 billion, or roughly 32%, of Brazil’s total agribusiness exports, which reached US$159 billion in 2022.
According to government data, soy leads Brazil’s export basket, generating US$46.5 billion in 2022, of which shipments to China accounted for more than US$31.8 billion, or more than 68% of the total. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, it was the highest revenue in history, with oilseed shipments in 2022 up 17% over 2021.
Following soy, oil was the product most sold by Brazil abroad (US$42.5 billion in 2022), with almost 40%, US$ 16.5 billion to China.
Iron ore is Brazil’s third most important export product overall, as well as to China, with a total of US$ 28.9 billion. China took the equivalent of US$ 18.2 billion, or approximately 63% of all exports.
Brazilian oil shipments to China increased by more than 300% in ten years, reaching 26.99 million tons in 2022, according to Secex data. Iron ore exports from Brazil to China totaled 236.9 million tons in 2022, up almost 40% in ten years.
All things considered, it was beef exports that have grown the most over the past ten years: a 7,140% increase to 1.2 million tons versus just 17.1 thousand tons in 2012, with the biggest jumps occurring in the last years, as Chinese people sought meat alternatives to pork and changed some eating habits.
See below Brazil’s beef shipments to China between Jan 2019 and Jan 2023, according to the DataLiner market intelligence program.
More than half of Brazil’s beef exports were destined for China in 2022, with revenue amounting to almost US$8 billion, out of a total of approximately US$13 billion.
The export of wood pulp, cotton, and pork from Brazil to China also accounts for a large part of the total exported by the country.