Data from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) revealed that Australian beef and veal exports for the first quarter of 2013 reached 223,423 tonnes swt, up 7% year-on-year and only 4,000 tonnes swt short of the record first-quarter total set in 2007.
Analysts at Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) said the increase had been driven by “increased slaughter and lower cattle prices”, with growth in new markets driving product away from the traditional markets of Japan and the US.
Exports to China reached a new monthly high of 12,320 tonnes swt in March, a 4% increase on the previous record set in February. This brings total Australian beef and veal exports to China in the first quarter of 2013 to 28,623 tonnes swt, which places it ahead of South Korea as Australia’s third-biggest beef market.
“Anecdotal reports out of China indicate that the increased demand could be maintained throughout the remainder of 2013, underpinned by a combination of tight domestic supply, increased foodservice demand and improving supply chains,” said the MLA analysts.
Ups and downs
Exports to Korea were also up last month, with volumes reaching 11,249 tonnes swt a 42% increase on volumes recorded in March 2012. “For the first three months of 2013, exports to Korea have also exceeded expectations, rising 17% year-on-year, to 28,406 tonnes swt,” said the MLA analysts. Exports to Indonesia, the EU and the Middle East also increased year-on-year.
However, exports to Japan – Australia’s biggest beef market – suffered from tough trading conditions, which the MLA said had been “accentuated by the weaker Japanese currency” so far this year. Austrlaia exported 24,253 tonnes swt of beef and veal to Japan in March, a 3% drop year-on-year, bringing first-quarter export volumes down to 62,337 tonnes swt, a 5% decline on the same period last year.
Exports to the US also fell 33% year-on-year in March to 18,059 tonnes swt. The MLA analysts said that this decline was due to competition for Australian manufacturing beef in other markets, a strong Australian dollar and a “drought-induced surge in lean manufacturing beef out of New Zealand”, which has increased competition on the US imported beef market.