AUSTRALIAN beef deftly replaced Costco as its largest grain-fed customer in Korea when the retail giant opted to source its big volumes of high-value chilled product from the United States last year.
Based on the fact Australian beef is the number one choice with Korean meat consumers who rate country-of-origin as their major purchase driver, the grain-fed beef was able to quickly be diverted elsewhere in the key market.
This was one of the stories which speaks to both the opportunities and challenges Australian red meat faces in global markets at the moment to come out of a comprehensive forum in Canberra this afternoon.
Meat and Livestock Australia’s international business manager for Japan and Korea Andrew Cox said following Costco’s announcement, new sales were very quickly found.
“With the knowledge we are number one with the consumer we were able to go to Costco’s competitors and offer strong packages built on the fundamental consumer trust and preference for our beef,” he said.
The value of beef and sheepmeat exports to Japan and Korea was now around the $4b mark, Mr Cox said.
Australian beef has an enviable position in these countries built on country of origin preference - that was by far the number one driver for people buying meat at a retail or food service level, he said.
However, that position has been hard-won, taking decades to achieve.
And these lucrative markets were also very competitive, being two of the top three for Australia’s key beef competitor, the United States.
With demand for red meat headed only upwards courtesy of the growing middle class seeking more protein in their diet, the opportunities for Australia seem endless, the forum heard.
But prosperity would depend on many things - open markets, promoting our points of difference and meeting changing consumer needs better and faster than our competitors, the line-up of high calibre speakers agreed.
MLA’s general manager of international markets Michael Finucan said Australia was a small producer on a global scale, representing only three per cent of beef production and seven per cent of sheepmeat.
“But we are a major exporter and as such we are exposed to global competitors,” he said.
“Exports are critically important to us so we need to be tactical and targeted about where we focus our energies.
“There are alot of competitors in this space that are commanding a share.”
It more important than ever for Australia’s red meat industry to know who and where the best consumers for its product were and to be strategic about where the best value could be captured, he said.
The forum kicked off what is arguably the largest annual beef and sheepmeat event in the country, Red Meat 2018 - four days of seminars, panel discussions, networking functions, producer days and meetings.
On the agenda tomorrow is a business breakfast at which Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud will speak, a session on technology, a sustainability forum and MLA’s annual general meeting.