A YOUNG cattle breeder making inroads into Asian beef export markets has urged producers to consider beef as a ‘value’ product rather than a commodity.
Brisbane-based Geoff Birchnell is co-principal of the Tamworth based Avignon Hereford stud, and left the accountancy profession a year ago to establish his food export business, Ausgreen Foods.
Mr Birchnell was runner-up in the 2015 Cattle Council of Australia NAB Agribusiness Rising Champion Initiative.
He said the Chinese requirement for high quality beef was growing exponentially.
China consumed about 140,000 tonnes of Australian beef last year, growing off a base of virtually nothing four years ago.
Mr Birchnell said China was now, and would stay, a major part of many Australian beef export companies’ marketing strategies. The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement had made Australian beef more cost-competitive for the Chinese consumer.
“For me, it was a natural progression from the cattle industry into supplying beef into Asian markets, primarily China,’’ he said.
“We have invested a lot of time and energy to build relationships, sending what we consider to be the right product. Currently it’s not about volume, but thinking about beef as more of a value product rather than just a commodity.’’
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Ausgreen Foods is exporting frozen beef primals and value-added retail-ready product, with plans to include chilled beef when the opportunity arises.
The retail-ready product comprises six different cuts packaged into 300 gram single serves, exported through the free-trade network direct to consumers.
“It is important to know what the Chinese are wanting and what Australia can deliver,’’ Mr Birchnell said.
“Traditionally, most of the trade has been in frozen beef, but now chilled beef is a growing market for Australia.’’
Calendar year-to-date chilled exports have totalled 2600 tonnes, up about 20pc on the same period last year.
With this year’s push into the Chinese market by frozen Brazilian beef, Australian product needed to be further differentiated, according to Mr Birchnell.
“We need to concentrate on more high-quality, high-value products – most Australian exporters see that trend and are now shaping their business to take advantage of that,’’ he said.
“Grainfed beef is considered a more premium product, but in saying that, grassfed can fall into many different segments. The Chinese don’t yet grasp the grassfed message like the North American consumers are starting to, but it’s an opportunity for Australia to promote that.”
“With the Australian dollar on our side in the long-term, and with positive marketing from Australia, we can make it all happen.’’
Ausgreen Foods targets Chinese food companies who carry out the in-country marketing.
“Our beef is sourced from whoever can provide the right product for the consumer’s needs,’’ Mr Birchnell said.
“We rely on the ciphers and quality levels of the AusMeat criteria. We educate the Chinese contacts on understanding the AusMeat language so we can compare apples with apples. It’s important the Chinese understand what they are getting, and what we can provide them with.’’
Mr Birchnell said the opening of the live slaughter trade to China for Herefords (see earlier report on first air freight shipment) was a great opportunity for the breed.
Source: Herefords Australia