Chinese demand for beef drives Australian meat exports

Chinese demand for beef drives Australian meat exports
Credit: Salvador Aznar

China topped the charts for Australian beef exports for the first time ever having edged past Japan by 700 tonnes according to figures from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

China accounted for 9.5% of all Australian beef exports in July 2018 but, last month, the figure was 24.5%.

115,000 tonnes of Australian beef were exported during July 2019, making it the nation’s biggest month since July 2015.

MLA said the rise is presentative of strong export demand, a weak Australian dollar and high levels of slaughter across the country.

Global export demand is primarily being generated from China, with June marking a new record for the most beef imported in a month by a single country, at 133,700 tonnes swt (import data for July not yet available).

China is seeking alternative meat proteins to fill the space left by the ongoing African Swine Fever (ASF) epidemic and resulting nationwide pork shortages.

However, increasing middle-class household incomes and shifting taste preferences are underpinning demand for higher quality meat, such as Australian beef.

Tightening regulations from Chinese government officials has resulted in less meat coming in from grey channels (such as Vietnam and Hong Kong), particularly Indian buffalo meat. As a result, Chinese buyers are actively pursuing key world exporters for direct supply.

Argentina has emerged as a leading supplier of beef to China, as the devaluation of the Peso and loosening of export controls have made their product increasingly competitive, while a temporary self-imposed ban on Brazilian beef to China in June (discussed here last week) proved just a minor speed bump.