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Australian beef and sheep meat exports stay firm as global landscape shifts

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has delivered updates that show beef and sheep meat exports continue to rise.

Beef

Beef exports have reached the largest volume for April since 2015, and the second highest ever recorded, as they have lifted 46 per cent from April 2023 to 113,431 tonnes.

Exports lifted in most major export markets, with the United States remaining the largest beef market with exports rising 127 per cent from last year to 27,257 tonnes.

Large increases were also seen in several smaller markets across South-East Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. 

Exports to Thailand more than doubled to 2,141 tonnes, while exports to Saudi Arabia lifted 235 per cent to 1,602 tonnes.

The only major market where exports dipped was China, where volumes eased 11 per cent compared to last year to 14,888 tonnes.

Between considerable increases in exports to smaller markets and a slight fall in exports to China, Australia’s beef exports are now the most diversified they’ve been since 2016.

Exports outside of Australia’s top four markets have made up 25 per cent of the total in 2024 so far, compared to 17 per cent for the first four months of 2023 and 15 per cent in 2022.

Sheep meat

Lamb exports rose 41 per cent from April last year to 31,318 tonnes, while mutton exports rose 20 per cent to 18,913 tonnes. 

This is the largest April export figure for lamb, mutton, and overall sheep meat exports on record, following very strong export totals in February and March.

The United States remained the largest market for Australian lamb exports, while mutton exports to MENA lifted 144 per cent from last year to 5,853 tonnes. 

Exports to Saudi Arabia rose 153 per cent to 1,956 tonnes while exports to the United Arab Emirates lifted 28 per cent to 804 tonnes and exports to Qatar lifted a massive 501 per cent to 765 tonnes.

Market access update

MLA also delivered an update on the foot-and-mouth disease situation in Brazil that will grant the country access to several key beef markets.  

Brazil has officially declared itself free of foot-and-mouth disease ‘without vaccination’. 

This is a designation that would grant Brazil market access to several key beef markets if the disease-free status is accepted by the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) and importing countries.

Over the past decade, Brazil has become the world’s largest beef exporter by volume, accounting for around 25 per cent of global trade in 2023. 

Its exports are heavily geared towards China, where it has market access, and its disease status prevents exports into Japan and South Korea.

Fortunately for Australian exporters, Australia’s suite of free trade agreements (FTA) gives our beef a comparative advantage in global markets regardless of technical market access. 

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