THE United Kingdom and Europe presented exciting opportunities for Australian beef exporters given the amount, on a per-kilogram basis, consumers in those countries were able, and willing, to pay for high quality, industry leaders said at a senate estimates hearing in Canberra.
However, Australia exports beef to a hundred different markets and if there was one thing recent volatility in individual markets, such as China, had done, it was strengthen the resolve of the industry to maintain diversification, they said.
Representatives from the red meat sector's big service provider Meat & Livestock Australia, including managing director Jason Strong, fielded questions from the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee about the pending Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom.
Senators asked how much truth there was in claims from British farmers about a lack of animal welfare standards in Australia and the idea our exports would flood their market.
Mr Strong said Australia's strong OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) assessment on animal welfare standards spoke for itself.
Further, he made the point that in exporting to a hundred different countries Australia "has to jump through the hoops for everybody in the world around quality, safety and security."
"This is what we do. Australia's red meat sector is an export business," he said.
There would always be posturing but it was best the industry did not enter into these sorts of arguments, he said.
"What we can do is keep talking about our commitment to supplying the highest quality meat and how positive our reputation is," he said.
However, he did say UK concern about the amount of beef Australia produces, the volume it has to send and the potential impact that may have were unfounded.
"There is no evidence of Australia doing anything like that anywhere else in the world," he said, in reference to market flooding.
"We have the type of relationships we want to build with the UK and EU already established in many other markets. We would approach this relationship in a collaborative way like we have every other time."
Just how strong the potential for increased exports to the UK might be depended on where the FTA negotiations land, he said.
"In recent years, as we have been able to get more access to these markets, our industry has responded," Mr Strong said.
"The best example is access to the tariff-free grain-fed quota, which more than doubled our beef exports to Europe and the UK in a short period of time.
"But for context, that was still only about 20,000t at its peak."
Australian beef exports reached 1.04 million tonnes shipped weight last year, which in itself was a decline of 15 per cent on 2019 levels.
"Still, the UK is a great opportunity because it is one of the highest value markets we have and we have a product in-demand in that market and we can fit in very well with their domestic production. We can be complementary," Mr Strong said.
"Marketing in the first instance would be in the context of business development activity supporting exporters and importers, which has been one of the most effective ways we manage our product in international markets.
"And we'd be able to pick that up very quickly."
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