February record month for Aussie beef, lamb exports

by Bryan Salvage
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NORTH SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA –Thanks to a lower-valued Australian dollar, strong manufacturing beef demand and U.S. and Middle East lamb demand, Australian beef and lamb exports posted record volumes in February, according to Meat & Livestock Australia.

Beef exports for the month increased 20% year-on-year, at 79,781 tonnes swt – surpassing the previous February record set in 2007. Lamb exports were up 15% year-on-year, to 15,540 tonnes swt – also the highest February volume on record, supported by higher lamb slaughter across the southern states during the month.

Of particular note regarding the record beef shipments for February were sharp increases to the U.S., South East Asia, principally Indonesia, and Taiwan, while volumes to Japan for the month were similar to last year. The lower Australian dollar has made Australian beef more affordable in the U.S., enabling a 72% year-on-year rise in shipments, to 27,657 tonnes swt – the largest February total since 2002.

Australian beef exports to the U.S. for the first two months of 2009 were up 59% on the same period last year, at 43,276 tonnes swt.

Demand for Australian manufacturing beef remained strong, with the U.S. economy in recession, especially from the fast-food sector, as U.S. consumers look towards cheaper meal alternatives, M.L.A. stated.

An unexpected highlight for February was a record monthly volume of beef to Indonesia, at 4,517 tonnes swt – which surpassed the previous monthly high of 3,762 tonnes swt set in April last year, and almost triple the volume shipped year-on-year.

Korea was the only major market to record a significant decline for February, which was off 20% year-on-year, at 8,432 tonnes swt – although this was almost double the volume sent during January (4,232 tonnes swt).

Helping lamb exports increase in February was a 37% increase in shipments to the U.S., to 4,700 tonnes swt – the second-highest monthly volume on record behind October 2007. While credit remains tight in the U.S., the lower Australian dollar helped to boost export sales for the peak Easter demand period in that country.

Demand for Australian lamb in the Middle East continued at pace during February, and was also bolstered by low stocks in the market. Shipments to the region increased 38% year-on-year, to 2,370 tonnes swt, with exports to Jordan increasing seven-fold, to 910 tonnes swt.

Dubai’s lamb demand remained firm despite some easing in the tourism sector due to the global economic turmoil, with lamb exports during the month increasing 2% year-on-year, to 740 tonnes swt.

Saudi Arabia was the only key market in the region to record a decrease in shipments. Volumes declined 59% year-on-year, to 179 tonnes swt.

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