Cost to beef of China dramas impossible to measure

Cost to beef of China dramas impossible to measure

Stock and Land Beef
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MLA at senate hearings: Jason Strong on China disruptions, CN30 and alternative proteins.

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ON THE MENU: From beef exports and marketing overseas to red meat's bid to be carbon neutral, plenty involving the cattle business was discussed in senate estimates hearings in Canberra last week.

ON THE MENU: From beef exports and marketing overseas to red meat's bid to be carbon neutral, plenty involving the cattle business was discussed in senate estimates hearings in Canberra last week.

It was impossible to measure how much Australia's geopolitical tensions with China might cost the beef industry because unique market dynamics were at play, senate estimates hearings in Canberra have heard.

Representatives from the red meat industry's big research, development and marketing provider Meat & Livestock Australia appeared before the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee and fielded questions on everything from global marketing budgets to carbon neutrality.

Managing director Jason Strong said China grew as a beef market for Australia extremely quickly.

In the past financial year, China was Australia's third largest market, with 197,000 tonnes of beef shipped and in the financial year before that it was the largest market, with well into 200,000t sent.

"But for context, ten years ago, it was just 5000t," Mr Strong said.

"Yes, we have had a reduction in our exports to China (in the past year) but we've also had a significant reduction in our available supply.

"This calendar year, our projection is that we'll be at 35-year lows in cattle slaughter."

Overseas marketing

Pandemic travel disruptions and event lockdowns have meant MLA's international marketing budget was underspent in the past financial year, senators heard.

MLA will have $3m extra in total travel costs in its purse as a result, along with $500,000 extra for the last few months of the previous financial year, chief operating officer Andrew Ferguson reported.

One third of the marketing budget typically is spend on overseas campaigns and insight gathering.

Mr Ferguson was also asked to provide a breakdown of the marketing-to-research spend of the levy money MLA receives a share of, along with Animal Health Australia and the National Residue Survey.

He said the grass-fed levy was split in a ratio of 73pc to marketing, the grain-fed split was 65pc to marketing, lamb 65pc, mutton was close to equal and goat 30pc.

CN30

Asked about the reaction of producers to the industry goal to be carbon neutral by 2030, Mr Strong said overall, it had been positive.

He did, however, acknowledge some concern about how the target would be achieved.

He made the point the basis of the decision to set such a target, announced in 2017, was a CSIRO report which found it was possible to achieve if investments in certain research and technology were made, and practices applied.

There had been some great opportunities arise from the target, he said, including the red aspargopsis seaweed that reduces the production of methane but also has a positive impact on performance.

"And there are other products that do the same thing," Mr Strong said.

"But more importantly is the progress quite a number of our sector have made in focusing on increasing productivity and improving the natural capital they have."

Good ground had been made towards having more productive operations, which make the environment better at the same time, he said.

Alternative proteins

The growing presence of alternative proteins competing for market share was also raised, particularly in relation to declining sheep meat consumption in Australia.

Sheep meat was still enjoyed regularly by more than 70pc of Australian households, Mr Strong said.

"The challenge to the amount we eat per person is more related to availability and price. We are at record lows with our flock, and at the same time we have some very keen overseas markets."

The story Cost to beef of China dramas impossible to measure first appeared on Farm Online.

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