The latest export figures show the Arab world overtaking China for Australian meat consumption. The AACCI points out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the Middle East is likely to see dramatic growth in food import requirements in the coming decades, making it a better prospect for long-term growth than China.
“These recent meat export figures may surprise many. The Arab market is a reliable, trusted, long-term trading partner for Australian agriculture that is sometimes overlooked when export market opportunities are discussed,” said AACCI chief executive Suzannah Moss-Wright.
There’s the beef
The group also revealed figures showing the dramatic rise of Australia’s beef exports to the region, which grew 146% since 2010. In the last fiscal year, Australian beef made up 7% of the 837,395 tonnes the Arab world imported, up from just 2% five years ago.
Saudi Arabia is the region’s single largest importer of Australian beef, buying just under 20,000 tonnes of frozen beef and just under 10,000 tonnes of fresh in 2014-15. Queensland dominated this market, providing 54% of Saudi Arabia’s Australian beef.
“We often think of the Arab world as a sheep meat market, but in fact 83% of red meat imported to the Arab world in 2014-15 was beef,” said Moss-Wright.
But while the Arab world takes just a sliver of its beef from Australia, mutton and lamb is a much larger proposition. The region imports 69% of its sheep from Australia, with Arab countries buying up 2.5 m lamb carcasses and 2.3 m live sheep. In total, sheep meat consumption in the Arab world rose 26% in the past five years, according to AACCI.
Air-freighted meat takes off
One major trend the chamber picked out was the dramatic rise of air-freighted premium chilled meat exports from Australia to the Middle East and North Africa, which roughly quintupled since 2007 to reach approximately 50,000 tonnes in 2014-15.
The Australian state of Victoria dominates this market, exporting 29,311 tonnes of chilled meat to MENA by airfreight last financial year, followed by New South Wales on 12,593 tonnes. Western Australia dominated in lamb exports, providing 91% of chilled airfreighted lamb for the region.
Moss-Wright said much of the credit for this trade goes to the region’s largest airline: “Emirates airline has transformed Australia’s meat export landscape since their arrival in Australia 20 years ago, to the benefit of Australian agriculture.
“A growing population with an increasingly affluent and educated middle class ensures the Arab world will continue to develop as Australia’s dominant premium and chilled meat export market over the next decade, due to our excellent interconnectivity with the Arab region,” she added.