COVID, trade issues have big impact on Australia’s beef exports to the EU – Can they bounce back?

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AUSTRALIA’S beef exports to the European Union collapsed to their lowest level in 16 years during 2020, due to a range of short and longer-term factors.

Often categorised as Australia’s most valuable beef export market on a dollars/tonne basis, the European Union (still including the United Kingdom until its formal departure back on 31 December), last year accounted for just 8525 tonnes of Australian beef.

That was the lowest volume seen since 2006, when the region was still in recovery mode after the devastating effects of BSE on consumer confidence over beef.

Last year’s volume represented only 61pc of trade seen in the previous 2019 year, but in fact the downwards trend in trade has been consistent over the past six or seven years. Back in 2014, for example, total EU trade was more than 25,000t, with better than 10,000t of that destined for the UK, alone. Last year’s direct or indirect shipments to the UK were just 1567t – perhaps the lowest level seen since World War Two.

Reflecting the high-value of the EU market on a $/tonne basis, last financial year (2019-20), 97pc of Australia’s exports to the region were in chilled form. In virtually all of Australia’s other export beef markets, frozen shipments heavily outweigh chilled.

The recent decline in trade throws greater light on the need for Australia to expedite trade agreements with both the EU, and the newly-separated United Kingdom.



Jon Condon /Beef Central

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