INVEST in supply chains in countries which are major live cattle customers and get a lot more sophisticated with the marketing of Australian boxed beef.
These two pertinent pieces of advice were offered among many insights provided by importers of Australian livestock and beef in key Asian markets at the live exporter's annual conference LIVEXchange in Townsville today.
Dicky Adiwoso, director of PT Juang Jaya Abadi Alam, an Indonesian-Australian joint venture company with Consolidated Pastoral Company which operates live cattle feedlots in Lampung and North Sumatra, said the cattle business was very high profile in his country.
"Cattle is a sign of wealth in our culture, so it's also political," he said.
Australia enjoyed sole supply of live cattle to Indonesia and while the trade had grown fast, it still only accounted for 20 per cent of Indonesia's beef supply, Mr Adiwoso said.
Australia had to move on from being just a supplier to facilitating co-investment if it wanted a future in Indonesia.
"If you only look at us a trading partner, you will have a different agenda to Indonesia," he said.
"We have to feed our people. Invest in our supply chain and forget fears of competitors piggy backing. Otherwise we will sell our market to anybody."
Mr Adiwoso's operation has a total capacity of more than 30,000 head and includes a breeding program which produces Brahman-cross cattle which are then distributed to several areas in Indonesia.
He said retail was growing and many traditional food markets were closing down in Jakarta but outside the city, wet markets were still the dominant way meat was purchased.
In the Philippines, beef was hardly seen in wet markets anymore - it has been priced out, president of the Philippine Meat Importers and Traders Association Jess Cham said.
"The people doing live cattle struggle with carcase balance because in the retail market they want high margins so this pushes prices up and it becomes more unaffordable for red meat to be an everyday consumption," he said.
Mr Cham's family business Mayon Consolidated is one of the Philippines' major importers of frozen meat products.
Yusof Dayan Iskandar Carey runs Butcher Carey, which imports Australian and US beef and supplies high-end Malaysian steak restaurants as well as his own restaurant.
He said Malaysia had a well organised retail structure and in his country 'if you have money you don't go to the wet market.'
"Everyone knows whatever hangs in the wet market is Indian buffalo meat," he said.
Like in many Asian countries, beef is a minority meat in Malaysia but a premium meat, an aspirational meat and demand is affected strongly by the state of the economy.
But Australia's competitors, particularly the United States, were ahead of the game when it comes to marketing and branding, Mr Carey reported.
"Don't just brand it Aussie beef, that doesn't sell it anymore," he said.
"I don't want just Aussie beef. I want Hereford, or Murray Grey from this or that river or pure Red Angus from Tassie.
"I can get prime Iowa US pure grain-fed Angus so packaging that says '60 days grain-fed Australian' is not enough."
Mr Carey agreed with the call for co-investment from Australian businesses.
"In Malaysia, feedlots and farms have all bought animals from Australia but there has never been investment into Malaysia," he said.
"Sixteen years ago, more animals where imported but today there are far more people and much more beef consumption.
"There is no real help from exporters or Australians for us to add value."
The three importers said there were minimal live export animal welfare concerns in their countries.
Mr Cham said in the Philippines, social economic demographics say 85pc of the population is poor without beef on their menu.
"The other 15pc have it once or twice a week only and the very very top end want high quality and their tastes are attuned to American beef," he said.
"So 85pc of people are more concerned with feeding their family than animal welfare."
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