According to Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) statistics, total beef exports in April dropped 2% to 92,500 tonnes swt compared to the previous month while sheepmeat exports declined by 15%, reaching 32,718 tonnes swt, which was particularly low ahead of Ramadan.
Australian beef exports to Indonesia in March and April, which fell into the preparation period for Ramadan this year, were down 10% compared to the preparation period last year. Beef exports to MENA declined 12% while sheepmeat dropped 20%. Sheepmeat exports to Malaysia were also down with lamb back 39% and mutton down 50%.
Australian exports to US down
Manufacturing trim, which accounts for more than 50% of total beef exports to the US, is down 19% on 2019 for the year-to-April. This has been attributed to the US food service sector being hit hard by coronavirus restrictions, and the category will likely remain behind year ago levels as the pandemic continues.
MLA did report that shipments of premium cuts, particularly striploin, tenderloin and cube roll/rib eye roll, have found some growth into the US market this year. Total loin cuts shipped to the US have grown 25% to 3,804 tonnes swt for the year-to-April period; demand has grown through retail channels with consumers look to spend more time at home cooking.
There was some positivity reported from the Chinese market. MLA stated that since late March, China has eased COVID-19 social distancing restrictions with businesses including restaurants beginning to resume operations. It said that red meat, particularly beef remains a salient protein that many Chinese consumers look for during the outbreak of COVID-19 due to its perceived health benefits such as supporting overall health and boosting immunity. MLA’s recent research on the impact of COVID-19 on Chinese consumers revealed that the market has seen stronger demand for Australian beef through the home isolation period.
This strong consumer preference for Australian red meat, coupled with easing restrictions has underpinned sharp growth in red meat exports to China in April. MLA reported beef shipments lifted 30%, reaching 24,000 tonnes swt, a record high since December last year. Lamb exports to China remained steady with shipments in April increasing 2% to 7,000 tonnes swt while mutton showed strong signs of recovery, lifting to 4,600 tonnes swt from 3,300 tonnes swt in March. The market is also seeing a steady growth in chilled grain-fed beef exports albeit its modest share of 10% out of total export volume.