Australian beef exports seen at record in 2013-14

Australia will export a record amount of beef in 2013-14, driven by strong demand from the United States and emerging markets, including China, the government’s official forecaster said on Tuesday.

Beef and veal exports in the coming season were expected to total 1.07 million tonnes, up from a record 1.015 million this year, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) said in its quarterly report.

The increase would be underpinned by stronger demand from Asia, while a rise in demand from the United States would offset falling sales in other markets, including Japan following an easing of import restrictions on U.S. beef.

The latest export forecast for the 2013-14 marketing year is up seven per cent from ABARES’ March forecast of an even one million tonnes.

ABARES said demand in the current season had risen substantially from China, where a wealthier middle class is increasingly turning to a higher-protein diet, and forecast sales growth of about 10 per cent.

China is set to become the fourth-largest market for Australia’s beef and veal exports this year.

“Since September 2012 monthly exports to China have averaged 9,000 tonnes, compared with average monthly exports of around 500 tonnes over the five years to August 2012,” the forecaster said in its quarterly report. “In 2013-14 exports to China are forecast to increase to around 120,000 tonnes.”

ABARES noted that Australian beef exports enjoy favourable access to China after it restricted sales from the U.S. and Brazil over BSE fears.

Australian beef exports to Southeast Asia would rise six per cent during the 2013-14 season, to reach 95,000 tonnes, ABARES said, offsetting a slide in expected sales to Indonesia, previously one of Australia’s largest markets.

“Increased exports to the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore have more than offset a 24 per cent decline in exports to Indonesia, which are being restricted by the Indonesian government’s maintenance of a quota on beef imports,” it said.

Exports of beef to the United States were expected to rise 10 per cent in 2013-14, driven by lower domestic supplies, and increased demand for Australian beef, aided by a weaker dollar.

However, ABARES expected sales of beef to Japan to decline after it eased its restriction on U.S. imports in February, relaxing a safeguard against BSE that has frustrated North American producers for a decade.

Australian exports in 2013-14 were expected to decline seven per cent from the current season, ABARES said, as U.S. imports took a greater share of the market at the expense of Australian beef.

— Colin Packham is a Reuters correspondent covering commodities from Sydney, Australia.

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