BEEF trade flows are evolving, global demand is growing and a unique phase of world supply is emerging.
Australia is primed to take advantage of unfolding global beef dynamics but the key thing is we could never feed the world so we have to be strategic about which growth areas we go after.
This was the assessment of Meat and Livestock Australia’s market intelligence manager Scott Tolmie, who spoke at a packed global markets forum at Beef Australia in Rockhampton this month.
His fascinating statistics presented plenty of fodder for talk amongst producers at the big beef event and put into perspective just where Australia sits on the international playing field.
Global beef demand had increased by 25 per cent in the past 30 years and most world institutions were forecasting one to two per cent growth into the future, Mr Tolmie said.
The factors contributing include an ever-growing population - an additional one million consumers are coming into the world - but more importantly, increasing income and household wealth.
Historically, as we see income increase so too does protein consumption, he explained.
“Asia is underpinning demand, along with places like Africa and the Middle East, but looking ahead almost all regions are expecting some level of growth,” Mr Tolmie said.
“In 1997, our top two markets accounted for 80pc of our exports but by last year, that was 60pc.
“Places like China are becoming more and more important for diversifying our portfolio.”
All this demand growth is occurring against a backdrop of the emergence of a unique phase in terms of global beef supply, with Brazil, India and the United States all forecast to increase their production, along with Australia.
Some of those key world producers were also shifting away from the traditional markets they supply - the likes of Russia and Venezuela - and pushing into Australia’s key markets like Asia and China.
For the six years prior to 2016 there was not a time when all the key beef producers were growing supply at the same time, according to Mr Tolmie.
“It’s a bit like four footy teams hitting form at the same time and everyone is chasing the same goal,” he said.
“What we need to do is be confident in our strategy, develop a deeper understanding of consumer preferences in our key export markets and highlight Australia’s main points of difference against our main competitors as we go for growth.”
Australia produced two million tonnes carcase weight last year - the equivalent of 300 grams for every person on earth.
That might sound like a huge amount, said Mr Tolmie, but it was still only 3pc of total world production.
“Yet even though we are only a small producer we are significant,” he said.
“We represent 15pc of world exports.
“With 70pc of our supply going overseas we are consistently one of the top three world beef suppliers.”