SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Marfrig Alimentos SA recently won the largest share of an Argentine quota to export premium beef at a special tariff to the European Union, according to Bloomberg. Four Marfrig units based in Argentina will gain clearance to ship a combined 3,142 metric tons of beef under the Hilton Quota in the year through June 30. Marfrig also captured the biggest share of the 2009-2010 quota.

After European agricultural subsidies were introduced in 1979, the Hilton Quota system was designed to help exporters from other nations.

In the first seven months of 2010, total Argentine beef exports fell 51% from a year earlier to 110,000 tons, according to the Argentine Beef Promotion Institute. Herds are diminishing in Argentina after farmers suffered the worst drought in more than 70 years in 2008 and slaughtered more cattle than usual in 2009 because the government blocked exports to ensure supplies for the domestic market.

JBS SA was awarded 2,046 tons of the 28,000-ton Hilton Quota.

Behind Uruguay, Argentina is the second-largest per-capita consumer of beef from the E.U. It received approximately half of the E.U.’s 58,000-ton quota, which was divided between it and seven other countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Paraguay, Uruguay and the U.S.