China sweeps past Japan and US as Australia’s largest export beef customer in 2019


Jon Condon, BEEF Central (Australia) 

January 8, 2020


CHINA’S recent dominance as the world’s largest beef customer has been underlined by 2019 Australian calendar year export statistics released this week, which have seen the Asian giant sweep past traditional customers Japan and the US as our largest beef export destination.


The historic milestone breaks a 50-year sequence where either Japan or the US stood as Australia’s biggest beef customer each year, when measured by volume.


China finished 2019 accounting for 300,132 tonnes of Australian beef, more than 90 percent of which was frozen.


While Australia has witnessed dramatic growth in trade to China this year, the trend is nowhere near as acute as it is in other beef exporting countries. For the full calendar year, China has accounted for 24.4pc of all Australian beef exports. Compare this with more than 55pc of New Zealand beef exports over the same period, and more than 26pc of Brazilian beef exports in recent monthly data.


China was already a substantial growth market for Australian beef this time last year, but it was the discovery of African Swine Fever in the nation’s pig herd, leading to a dramatic decline in domestic pork production and an animal protein deficit now estimated at ten million tonnes, which has fuelled China’s dramatic rise in demand for beef, lamb and all other imported proteins during 2019.


China finished the year with record monthly exports for December of 34,291 tonnes, despite the fact that much of that meat would not be cleared through Customs in time for Chinese New Year activity towards the end of January.


Drought impact on export volume ...