Australian red meat shipments to Saudi Arabia were up 171% year-on-year in the first five months of 2013, driven by a seven-fold increase in beef exports, with beef shipments for the period totalling 12,996 tonnes (t) swt. Analysts at Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) said the big increase in beef shipments had been fuelled by Saudi Arabia’s ban on Brazilian beef, which was imposed in late 2012.
Mutton shipments also saw good growth of 65% year-on-year, totalling 7,584t swt in the first five months of 2013.
According to the latest Business Monitor Internatinoal (BMI) food and drink report on Saudi Arabia, food consumption in the country is projected to grow by 9.8% this year, driven by a 4.1% growth in the economy and a 5% growth in private consumption. MLA said that this should help drive further demand for meat imports going forward.
Australian red meat exports have performed well across the Middle East, reaching record levels in May. Total exports for the month totalled 16,492t swt, which was a year-on-year increase of 46% and a 7% increase on the previous record set in April 2013.
Beef exports to the region saw the biggest growth, up 166% year-on-year in May to 6,226t swt, while lamb exports were up 37% year-on-year to 5,955t swt.
MLA analysts said that Saudi Arabia was the biggest driver of beef export growth, balancing losses in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan, which have absorbed much of the Brazilian beef diverted from Saudi Arabia.
Lamb shipments, meanwhile, were driven by strong demand from the UAE, Jordan and Bahrain.
The analysts said that the Middle east accounted for 6% of Australian beef shipments in May, up from 0.4% in May 2003, demonstrating the growing importance of the region. The region is also increasing its share of Australian lamb exports, up to 30% in May 2013 from 10% in May 2003.
“This change not only reflects the growing importance of the Middle East as a destination for Australian red meat, but illustrates the growing diversification in Australia’s red meat markets. The diversification means a decrease in reliance on just a handful of markets, giving the industry greater flexibility in times of economic slowdown in major markets or market access restrictions,” it explained.