Jamie Ferguson, regional manager for the Middle East and North Africa at Meat and Livestock Australia, told FoodNavigator-Asia that China had gone from being the number eight market for Australian red meat to number three in under a year.
“The growth has been phenomenal,” said Ferguson, who was speaking at Gulfood 2014, the annual food and beverage industry show for the Middle East.
Meat and Livestock Australia is the peak marketing and development body for Australia's cattle, sheep and goat producers.
“What has happened in China is that they have depleted their cattle [both beef and lamb] stocks heavily,” said Ferguson. “So they have decided to top up from other countries.”
Ferguson pointed out that only three countries are legally allowed to supply China, the other two being New Zealand and Uruguay. “So we have been in a great position to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.
Opportunity well tapped
Data from the government backs this up. According to the Department of Agriculture, Australian beef, veal, lamb and goat exports to China surged during 2013, to 256,993 tonnes, accounting for 17% of Australia’s total exports, compared to 6%, at 79,153 tonnes in 2012.
Of these, Australian beef and veal exports to China during 2013 climbed significantly, to 154,833 tonnes, up 371% year-on-year. The beef cut in the greatest demand was brisket, at 29,960 tonnes¾up 423%.
In terms of Australian sheepmeat exports during 2013, lamb shipments were up 34% year-on-year, to 39,535 tonnes, while mutton exports surged 254%, to 57,888 tonnes, accounting for 34% of Australia’s total exports.
According to Ferguson, the market in China has seen an even mix between the retail and food service industry.
Perception of safety helping
“We are seen as country that is clean and safe. There probably has been some uptake based on their food safety standards and that is why we are one of only three countries allowed to legally sell there,” said Ferguson, when asked if China’s food safety issues have inadvertently opened the door to Australian exports.
On the rest of Asia, Ferguson said that the country was seeing high growth in Indonesia, Australia’s closest neighbour, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Date from the government revealed that Australian red meat exports to the wider Southeast Asia region during 2013 surged 85% year-on year, to 448,838 tonnes.