China will be the main destination of Brazil’s beef exports this year, with the acquisition of 44% of the total, the Brazilian Association of Meat Exporting Industries (ABIEC) predicted on Tuesday.

The association announced it is forecasting shipments of 1.62 million tonnes of beef in 2018, an increase of 10% over 2017 due to strong demand from Asia, particularly China.

ABIEC expects exports to total US$6.54 billion, which is 7.4% more than in 2017.

From January to November 2018, beef exports reached 1.49 million tonnes and a value of US$5.99 billion, an increase of 10.6% and 8.3% over the same period of last year, respectively.

ABIEC President António Camardelli said that China will continue to be a key factor in the export growth expected in 2019.

The association’s forecast for 2019 is exports of 1.8 million tonnes, providing revenues of US$7.26 billion.

Brazilian group Minerva announced last November it had signed a contract with the Alibaba group and five other customers in China to supply frozen beef over a five-year period with an estimated annual value of US$100 million.