Three countries are vying for the title of the world’s largest beef exporter for 2011 as the export year enters its final stages.
Meat and Livestock Australia says monthly chilled and frozen beef and veal export data shows that Australia, Brazil and the US are each in the running for the top position.
Australia and Brazil normally compete for the title, however the US has emerged as a strong contender after its beef exports increased by 28pc this year compared to last.
The US has increased its focus on beef exports this year due to several factors, including enhanced price competiveness in export markets due to a weaker US$, constrained consumer demand in the US domestic market and higher beef production than normal due to drought-based turnoff.
MLA reported in Meat and Livestock Weekly report last Friday that after official export data had been tallied for the first eight months of 2011, Australia holds a narrow lead.
It exported 611,605 tonnes for that period, just ahead of the US on 592,558t and Brazil on 537 727t. Brazil fell back on strong demand from a rising Brazilian middle class, combined with a currency-related decline in international competitiveness, MLA reported.
For the July 2010-June 2011 financial year Australia was the world’s largest beef exporter, with 937,301t, compared to Brazil’s 871,592t.
However, for the 2010 calendar year, Brazil led the race, with 951,225t compared to Australia’s 922,833t.
September export figures were not available for the US at the time of its report, but MLA said Australian exports for September totalled 81,965t and Brazilian exports totalled 76,863t.
With October and November traditionally large months for Australian beef exports, MLA believes the most likely outcome is that Australia will hold its lead over the US and Brazil for 2011.
The likelihood of this outcome was supported by latest United States Department of Agriculture forecasts which have US beef production for the final quarter of 2011 declining 4pc on the third quarter, with exports forecast to contract 12pc.
The increase in US exports has come at a cost to Australian exports in key markets, MLA said.
“Canada and Mexico have been the largest export markets for US beef in 2011, but it has been the sharp growth in volumes to Japan and Korea which has created the largest concerns for the Australian beef industry.”
Australia produced approximately 2.13 million tonnes of beef and veal in 2010-11, exporting 64.8pc of total production, US beef production totalled 12 million tonnes, with exports making up 9.7pc of total production.
In 2010, Brazilian beef exports (fresh and processed) accounted for approximately 20pc of production (Informa Economics FNP).