The supremacy of AUSTRALIAN beef in foodservice channels appears to have been a key factor in keeping exports on pace during some of the most difficult pandemic times of the past year.
December red meat export figures just released by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment show beef shipments edged up last month to see the annual total last year stood at 887,679 tonnes of shipping weight.
This was down from the 1,039,411 tonnes exported in 2020 and almost 20% below the five-year average. However, against the backdrop of sharply reduced livestock supplies at home and continued disruption from COVID, it was higher than most expected during the year.
More than half of Australia’s beef exports for the year, or 499,563 tonnes, came from Queensland and the total tonnage of chilled beef was 263,562 tonnes, up from 301,947 tonnes in 2020.
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One of the strongest economies in the world, Japan, has retained its crown of number one customer.
Thomas Elders Markets calculated volumes to Japan at 26.3% of trade flows, up from 25.9% in 2020.
Meat & Livestock Australia surveys conducted in Japan last year showed that while COVID-19 has impacted many aspects of people’s lives, the patterns of consumption of protein groups had not changed.
MLA’s latest global market snapshots, released late last year, indicated Australia to be a dominant supplier of beef to burger chains and casual restaurants in Japan. While the pandemic has impacted all restaurant businesses, operators in this segment have weathered the challenge relatively well, supported by their take-out and delivery capacity, market experts from MLA said.
Growing consumer interest in the health, variety and enjoyment of food in Japan would continue to create growth opportunities for Australian beef, despite a shrinking population, the snapshot concluded.
In South Korea, which TEM analysts called a “big improvement” in 2021 after moving from fourth to second after accounting for 18.6% of annual export trade, the catering factor is similar .
Foodservice operators in Korea have grown to respond to the pandemic and meet the changing needs of consumers, with the main revenue drivers of take-out, home delivery and restaurant meal replacement, a reported MLA.
The Korean foodservice industry is a key user of Australian beef, product manufacturing in burger and chuck chains, brisket and skirts in soups in casual restaurants to loin in upscale restaurants .
China ended the year as Australia’s third-largest customer and a strong growth opportunity remains, although analysts and exporters point out that competition in the Chinese beef market is intensifying as more and more. more countries get market access.
TEM analyst Matt Dalgleish said Australian beef export flows to China have shown a relatively stable pattern of moderate monthly growth during the second half of 2021.
December figures show a 5% gain on an annual basis, but China imported nearly 25% less Australian beef in 2021, compared to 2020, with the total volume of beef exports to China reaching 148,357 tons of swt.
“China’s exceptionally strong demand for protein in 2019 and 2020, due to their pork shortage due to African swine fever, likely overestimates the drop in demand seen in 2021,” said Dalgsleish.
TEM data shows that China’s imports last year were 14% below the five-year average volumes.
Given ongoing trade tensions and Australia’s still-hanging beef export slaughterhouses, this is showing resilience, according to Dalgleish.
The MLA predicts that China’s national per capita beef consumption will increase from 5.2 kg in 2015 to 7.7 kg in 2025.
This is believed to be due to rising incomes, continued urbanization and the ASF-induced pork shortage.
The majority of Australian beef is sold through foodservice channels, with some going for further processing of items for the sector such as fondue buns, burgers, meatballs and sausages, according to the overview of the MLA market in China.
Higher-value products, such as grain-fed beef, are distributed to more upscale full-service restaurants.
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