October 5, 2011
Australian meat exporters expect Asia's economy to drive growth
Australian meat exporters are optimistic that Asia's dynamic economies will support growth, with the industry forecasting gains of up to 20% in markets such as Thailand.
Amir Gun Mohammad, a regional representative for Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), says the expected boost has followed the rapid development of the local food services industry, a growing middle class and expanded trade opportunities.
"Hopefully it will be very, very good for us. I think Thailand has been seen to be a major player in the ASEAN region. They export a lot to other parts of ASEAN," Amir Gun said.
Amir Gun said once the ASEAN free trade system was in place Australian beef and livestock importers would face an easier path to regional markets.
A free trade agreement (FTA) between Thailand and Australia has seen the annual import quota for Australian beef rising steadily. A 2010 quota was set at 990 tonnes but was raised to 1,050 tonnes this year.
In 2010 Australia exported over 1,834 tonnes of beef and 1,556 tonnes of lamb to Thailand. All the meat was chilled or frozen beef and veal, lamb, mutton and offal, with no live cattle exports to Thailand.
Amir Gun says 40% of the product into Thailand is processed through areas such as US hamburger chains such as McDonalds who purchase ready prepared meats from Australia.
He said Australian meat processing companies may look to invest in Thailand for trade in ready prepared meats that would enable exports within the AEC.
In live cattle exports to Asia, Australia's focus has rested on Indonesia. The trade is recovering from a three month ban following an expose broadcast on ABC Four Corners of footage showing mistreatment and abuse of cattle inside Indonesian abattoirs.
Live exports to Indonesia account for about half or AUD318 million (US$305 million) of Australia's AUD753 million (US$723 million) annual exports in live cattle.
Australian live cattle exporters adopted several measures to enable the trade to restart in early September. Meat and Livestock Australia estimated about 60,000 head of cattle were to reach Indonesia last month.
Australian meat exports into Asia gained a major foothold in 2003 after US exporters faced bans after discovery of mad cow disease in US beef. The bans, now lifted, spurred demand for Australian meat and enabled vital market access across the region.
Amir Gun says the outlook is positive and the possibility for Australian beef and lamb is very good in the region. He added that Vietnam is set to be a key market in the future because Vietnamese love their beef noodle and the potential of the possibility of retailing coming in.