NZ plug­ging into beef short­age

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

High ex­change rates mean New Zealand is not mak­ing the most of record prices for beef in the United States.

Ham­burger meat is sell­ing at US$2.20 a pound (NZ$5.90 a kilo­gram), 10 per cent up on a year ago, and the high­est it has ever been.

The rise shows no sign of eas­ing off, ac­cord­ing to Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

‘‘It’s got some pretty good legs,’’ gen­eral man­ager mar­ket de­vel­op­ment Craig Finch said.

‘‘It’s in un­known ter­ri­tory. The US mar­ket has never been at this level be­fore.’’

But with the kiwi at US82C and with a pre­dic­tion that it could go as high as 88c, farm­ers were not re­ceiv­ing full value for their stock.

The US beef herd had fallen to its low­est num­bers since 1953 and with high grain prices and a slug­gish econ­omy was un­likely to re­cover quickly.

This void in beef sup­ply would be filled by New Zealand, Finch said. The lo­cal beef herd was ex­pected to in­crease 2.5 per cent this year and more dairy beef could be ex­pected from the grow­ing dairy in­dus­try.

A short­age of beef world­wide meant the Rus­sian mar­ket would also have an in­flu­ence. Paraguay, a big sup­plier to Rus­sia, had been re­moved be­cause of a foot and mouth dis­ease out­break.

‘‘We think the Aus­tralians will fo­cus on fill­ing that gap in the mar­ket at the ex­pense of the US. That has to be use­ful for us.’’

How­ever, Finch was cau­tious about pre­dict­ing how long the high prices and mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties would last.

‘‘There’s so many forces in the world to­day, weak cur­ren­cies in Europe and the US, vis­i­bles and in­vis­i­bles, that get­ting your head around it all is hope­less. Try­ing to pre­dict it is even worse.’’

New Zealand’s top qual­ity beef cuts went to Asia and Finch said that mar­ket was also look­ing promis­ing.

New Zealand had worked hard to hold on to gains made since 2003, when the US was forced to with­draw over bovine spongi­form en­cephalopa­thy (BSE) dis­ease fears.

The US had re­turned to Ja­pan but with strict con­di­tions, to Korea with a new free trade agree­ment, and to Tai­wan, where it faced stiff op­po­si­tion from lo­cal farm­ers.

How­ever, it was Australia, whose grain-fed beef was sim­i­lar in taste and ap­pear­ance to US beef, that had lost a lot of ground with the US re­turn. New Zealand had tai­lored pro­mo­tion of its grass-fed beef in each of these mar­kets.

In Ja­pan, food safety was im­por­tant. In Korea New Zealand’s nat­u­ral beauty was pro­moted, and in Tai­wan the health at­tributes – omegas 3 and 6 fatty acids and low calo­ries – were high­lighted.

Tai­wan had now grown to be New Zealand’s big­gest prime cut mar­ket.

The Tai­wan trade was now worth more than US$112 mil­lion (NZ$136M), not far be­low 2004’s US$116M (NZ$140M) when New Zealand had 52 per cent of the mar­ket in the US ab­sence, Finch said.

This had been achieved through con­vinc­ing chefs in blind tast­ings that though grass-fed beef might look dif­fer­ent to the pinker grain-fed beef, its taste was su­pe­rior. Fair­fax NZ

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