NORTH SYDNEY, Australia – Recent Australian beef industry taskforce meetings have re-emphasized the need for that industry to grow new and emerging markets for beef in light of Australia’s traditional markets enduring a prolonged economic downturn — and the industry appears to be heading in the right direction. Australian beef exports to Russia have increased to 38,436 tonnes as volumes to the US decline, Australian beef exports to the Middle East up 58% year to date and there are opportunities for Australian beef in South East Asia and China as protein consumption grows.

There are positive signs in markets such as Russia, the Middle East, South East Asia and China at a time Australia’s mature markets are struggling, said Dr. Peter Barnard, Meat & Livestock Australia’s International Market and Economic Services general manager.

“While our long-term customers in Japan and the US continue to face economic adversity and decreased consumer confidence, and competition increasing in Korea, emerging markets are experiencing growth,” he said. “Conditions are ideal for us to ramp up our international marketing programs and capitalize on the opportunity to build and develop the profile of Australian beef in these markets.”

Australian beef exports to Japan are down 3% this year to date, due primarily to the low US dollar making US beef more competitive in that market. The weakening of the US dollar against the Australian dollar has also seen volumes of Australian beef to the US decrease by 25%.

“Russia has imported more than 38,000 tonnes of Australian beef in the year to date – a significant proportion of the export volume normally sold to the US. This is not only due to currency but also reduced supplies from South America” he said.

Australian beef exports to the Middle East have grown from 4,374 tonnes in 2007 to 15,753 tonnes in 2009. The trend has continued in 2010, with exports for the first 10 months of 2010 to the Middle East rising 59%, to more than19,000 tonnes. Within the region, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, has undergone rapid economic growth due to high oil prices and increased demand for support services.

“In South East Asia and China, Australian beef exports to October 2010 are up by 4% year-on-year, following a 35% increase in 2009, with this export growth driven by demand in developing Asian markets such as Indonesia, China and the Philippines,” Bernard said. “Total population in this region is estimated at 1.9 billion – 27% of the world’s total population – and with income growth comes increased consumption of proteins including beef.”