With more than 95,000 ravenous rugby fans about to land on New Zealand for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, one of the big questions being asked by NZ media is not so much who will win, but whether there will be enough beef to feed the hungry masses.
The Waikato Times recently reported that a looming kiwi beef shortage could see NZ food service outlets turn to lower-priced imports from Australia if demand forces local beef prices too high.
The NZ Herald also highlighted concerns that recent bouts of harsh weather and the timing of the tournament at the end of the killing season meant prime cuts of locally produced meat would be more scarce than usual at World Cup time.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand said beef cattle numbers had fallen by 12.7pc over the past five years, and believed prices would inevitably drive supply during the intense period of demand.
"If demand for local beef is up then that will drive prices up, so if suppliers can buy Australian beef cheaper than what they can access it for here, then I guess it will be brought in," Beef + Lamb's economic service executive director Rob Davison told the Waikato Times.
However the NZ Meat Industry Association told Beef Central yesterday it was confident that most of its members had made provisions to meet the increased demand during September and October.
While it was the low point of the meat processing season, NZ exported more than 80pc of its beef production on average, NZ MIA trade and economic manager Dan Coup said.
“So over a year New Zealand produces beef far in excess of its local market demand, even with the 95,000 rugby-related visitors that tournament organisers are expecting,” Mr Coup said.
Mr Coup said that if imports were required Australia would be a likely source.
“New Zealand and Australia have similarly high standards of biosecurity and meat hygiene so there is already a relatively free trade of meat across the Tasman, with small amounts of beef traded in either direction as prices and demand for certain cuts determine.
“We would expect this to continue and don’t expect significant volumes of beef to be imported from any other country.”
The Rugby World Cup runs from September 9 to October 23.
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