Figures add up for push into EU
THE European Union, not China, could prove the most lucrative market for Australian lamb and mutton.
Meat and Livestock Australia managing director Richard Norton said if the choice was between China and the EU, Australia should look to the market that provided the best returns.
“In China, when a consumer’s annual income reaches $US35,000 a year, then they start to buy more protein,” Mr Norton said.
“In 2015, there were 7.9 million people with an income over US$35,000 and in 2020 it’s expected to be 16 million.
“In the EU there are 300 million with an income at that level,” Mr Norton said.
“That’s why the post-Brexit free-trade agreement with the EU is so important, because that’s the market that can afford our cuts.”
Earlier this year MLA’s international business manager for Europe Josh Anderson said Australia had a 19,000 tonne quota for exports to the EU and tariffs added $5.25 for each kilogram, while New Zealand had a quota of 228,254 tonnes.
Mr Norton said one importer in Switzerland bought about $180 million worth of lamb for about $28/kg, a lot of it Australian, to sell to tourists.
He said with high-value overseas markets it was important to keep in touch with what consumers wanted and good animal welfare was vital.
“The question I got was that it must hurt the sheep when they get an ear tag,” he said. “While domestic consumers are more interested in the price and the health benefits.”
Mr Norton said Europe was increasingly focusing on animal welfare and the environment.
He said the union had banned hormone growth promotants despite there being “no scientific evidence” of negative effects.
“We have lost that debate and it’s more about fast-food chains carving out a market.”
In 2015, there were 7.9 million Chinese with an income over US$35,000. . . in the EU there are 300 million with incomes at that level
Mr Norton said Memphis Meats, a company developing animal-free meat backed by billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson was “the one to watch”.
“It could be a positive or a negative,” he said.
“When I first heard about the lab meat I said our grandkids’ grandkids will crack open a Petri dish of meat on the way to Mars. But next year a chain is going to release a line of ethically produced beef burgers.”
Mr Norton said he hoped people would choose to eat a natural product.
“We hope to have a good marketing story in the next decade,” he said.