Australian beef exporters to face tougher competition in Japan

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 23rd January 2013

The Japanese government has released plans to ease controls on beef imports in early February 2013. This is likely to impact Australian beef exporters adversely.

Japan previously banned the importation of American and Canadian beef in 2003 in response to an outbreak of mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The ban was lifted in December 2005 but up until now, the ban applied to allow cattle aged up to 20 months. The Japanese import conditions will now ease the age limit condition to 30 months of age.

The increase in the upper age limit of cattle is expected to result in over 90% of American-produced beef meeting the criteria. This is likely to hit exports by Australian exporters. The high Australian dollar , stimulated by the so-called “2-tier” Australian economy dominated by  its mining sector, will place North American producers at a competitive advantage.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported statistics from 2010-2011 showing that Japan was Australia’s top export market for beef in terms of volume and value.

Meanwhile,Australia’s industry body Meat and Livestock Australia has said Australian beef exporters are facing increased competition from a boom in beef exports coming from South America. Depreciating South American currencies and a global demand for cheap protein has assisted Mercosur countries to significantly improve beef exports in 2012 by up around 12% year-on-year, and exports are predicted to remain high in 2013.

The Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has predicted that beef meeting the new criteria will begin to arrive in Japan around late February to early March.