January 8, 2004



Australian Beef Exports Down 8.6% 2003


Australian beef exports in 2003 were 8.6% lower than in 2002. It exported a total of 840,929 metric tons bone free in 2003 compared to 920,365 tons the previous year, according to official figures issued Thursday.


Falls in exports to Canada, the U.S. and South Korea more than offset increased trade to Japan.


The major decline in 2003 was in exports to Canada, with shipments falling to 29,004 tons in 2003, down almost two-thirds from 82,925 tons in the previous year, the figures show.


Demand for imported beef collapsed after the late May discovery of a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, in a Canadian beast.


The discovery of a case of BSE in the U.S. likely will start to impact Australian beef export data this month, although this is traditionally the slowest month of the year for the beef trade.


The export figures are supplied by the government's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry, which doesn't comment on the data.


Australian beef output and export availability increased in 2002 as producers reduced herd sizes in the face of a savage drought.


The drought ended across much of Australia in 2003, spurring producers to retain more beasts on properties to take advantage of rejuvenated pastures and rebuild herds.


As a result, beef production fell in 2003, reducing the availability of meat for export.


A sharp rise in the value of the Australian dollar in 2003, by more than a third against the U.S. dollar, made Australian beef less competitive in global markets and squeezed returns to exporters.


Exports to the U.S. also fell last year, down 4.6% to 368,010 tons from 385,862 tons previously.


Exports to South Korea slipped to 62,289 tons in 2003, down from 80,153 tons previously.


The big jump in exports last year was to Japan, as demand in this premium market continued to rise from depths plumbed from late 2001 and early 2002 in the wake of several cases of BSE there.


Australian beef exports to Japan rose 18% last year to 279,316 tons from 236,957 tons previously.


The gain in exports to Japan came despite high prices toward year-end that curbed Japanese consumer demand for the meat.


Australia exports beef to many other nations, mostly in Asia and the Middle East.


The official figures also show Australian beef exports in December fell to 69,575 tons from 71,943 tons in November, both well down from 79,767 tons in December 2002.

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