January 24, 2023

Official figures from the Australian government indicate that the country’s beef exports fell by 4% last year versus 2021, reaching just under 855,000 tonnes. Volumes were hit in most major markets with the exception of China.

Japan and the USA each contracted by 8%, while southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region fell by 6%, and South Korea was down 3%. Fortunately, China rallied, with beef exports rising by 7% to 158,000 tonnes.

According to Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), the 2022 result represents the lowest total beef exports since 2003, but there was a bright note. “High demand led to strong prices for beef exports,” said the MLA’s business analyst Tim Jackson. “Prices peaked in June at A$12.07/kg and averaged A$11.09 for the year-to-October. In value terms that means Australian beef exports had their biggest year since 2019, even as supply was substantially smaller.”

Differentiating factors

Beef Exports
The Australian beef industry has maintained a premium image in the global market.

The high prices came in the face of some stiff competition from several exporting nations. “As the US herd liquidation deepened, cheap American beef flooded into Japan and South Korea, giving the US its largest market share in 20 years in both markets. At the same time, Brazilian exports ramped up massively to become the main supplier of beef in China, now solidly the world’s largest beef importer,” said Jackson.

Australian exporters responded by differentiating Australian beef with respect to traceability, product consistency, and taste. This has allowed the industry to maintain a premium image in the global market, even with constrained supply.

Across all Australian red meat exports (including lamb and mutton) there were turbulent global conditions throughout 2022 such as natural disasters, war, and the onset of inflation. However, the market performed robustly, with record lamb exports opening an optimistic window to 2023. There were also positive developments, such as the signing of trade agreements with India and the UK.

Australia beef exports
The 2022 ‘You’re Thinking Beef’ campaign in Australia.

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