December 23, 2011


Australian beef exports to end 2011 on record high



Australia's beef and veal shipments have already exceeded 2010's total although 2011 has been marked by unprecedented events in key beef export markets.


According to the latest Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) export figures for December (as at December 19), 56,192 tonnes of beef has been shipped so far in the month, taking total exports for 2011 to 923,333 tonnes - surpassing the 922,833 tonnes registered for the full 2010 calendar year.


With 12 days still remaining in the export year, Australian shipments are expected to surpass 940,000 tonnes - however volumes do slow considerably post-Christmas due to holiday closures.  At over 940,000 tonnes, this would be the largest calendar year total for the past three years, and the fifth highest on record. The record calendar year shipments were set in 2008, at 957,482 tonnes.


For Australian beef exports in 2011 to have exceeded 2010 levels by 2% to 3% has reflected the very strong underlying global demand for Australian beef, considering the issues faced for exporters throughout the year. An AUD averaging US$0.103, and hitting US$0.110 twice throughout the year, created a significant headwind for Australian exporters, while the ongoing global economic turmoil created demand concerns in many advanced beef markets.


For Australia's largest beef export market, Japan, the natural disasters in March devastated the economy, impacting demand for Australian beef for the remainder of the year. Additionally, Australian product faced increased competition from US beef in the Japanese market, as the strong AUD contrasted with the very weak US currency. However, despite all of these issues, Japan remains Australia's largest beef export market by a large distance, taking 36% of all beef exports for the year, and more than double the next largest market (the US).


Undoubtedly, the stars of the 2011 export year were the smaller, non-traditional markets, which offset (or even contributed to) the lower volumes to Japan and the US. Russia, the Middle East and South East Asia were the main contributors to the increase in total exports for the year, with rises also witnessed to more traditional markets of the EU and Canada.  However, it should also be noted that exports to Korea increased in 2011.


Traditionally dominated by the big three markets of Japan, the US and Korea, Australian beef exports to all "other" markets increased 17% (January to November) on-year, offsetting a 3% decline to the big three combined.

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