NORTH SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — Last week, Middle East demand for Australian red meat was reinforced when a record contingent of Australian red-meat exporters participated in the region’s largest food tradeshow called Gulfood.

Lachlan Bowtell, Meat & Livestock Australia (M.L.A.) Regional Manager — Middle East/North Africa, said the 22 exporters participating in the event from Feb. 21-24 received enormous interest.

“The tradeshow allowed exporters to meet with current customers and set supply schedules for the coming 12 months,” Mr. Bowtell said. “As well as cementing relationships with existing customers, there were plenty of new inquiries, including from non-traditional markets and products, including goat meat.”

The strong demand for Australia’s products was very encouraging to see, he added. But the two overriding factors that will dictate the trade to the Middle East going forward are the Australian dollar and Australia’s ability to supply, particularly sheep meat.

Australia’s supply constraints have been causing the trade to re-think the way the carcass is utilized.

“At Gulfood, there was a notable shift in focus, with some exporters working with customers to develop cuts-based supply programs rather than whole carcass, to assist in spreading around the available product,” Mr. Bowtell said.

Australia’s food safety and Halal certification programs are highly regarded in the region, with an enormous amount of trust being placed in these systems by local governments and importers, he added.

“Food security and integrity in the source of foods is the key to maintaining our market share and the communication of these programs to the trade and consumers is vital for the ongoing development of key markets,” Mr. Bowtell said.

Australia’s commitment to the region was also demonstrated by M.L.A.’s sponsorship of culinary and cutting competitions and food-safety conferences and workshops in conjunction with the trade show.

“Gulfood confirmed that Australian red meat remains highly sought after in the region, where our products tick all the boxes in regards to quality, safety and Halal certification,” Mr. Bowtell said. “This demand is underpinned by the quest in the region to secure adequate supplies of food for the ever -expanding population.”

In 2009, the Middle East attracted a record 115,775 tonnes of Australian beef, lamb, mutton, goat meat and offal. M.L.A.’s latest forecasts, outlined in the Industry Projections 2010, indicate beef and lamb exports to the region will continue to increase in 2010, both up 8%, while mutton exports are forecast to fall 6% due to supply constraints.