The second Bord Bia meat seminar focused on the Asian market and included a particularly enlightening contribution from Joel Haggard who also spoke to the Irish Farmers Journal in this week’s podcast.

The Asian market is serving Irish dairy and pigmeat exports well and there has been progress with beef as well, particularly in Japan and the Philippines. China had been showing considerable promise before the discovery of case BSE in May caused a suspension of exports that have yet to resume.

It is clear that Asia is an area of the world with potential for growth when it comes to beef imports. However, it is an already-busy market place with all of the major South American exporters, the USA, Canada Australia and New Zealand already well established. That said, growing demand has created space for everyone so far.

Importance of Asia for US

Listening to the presentation from Joel Haggard, the US Meat Exporters Federation (USMEF) representative in Asia was particularly enlightening.

After China and the US itself, Japan and Korea are the largest importers of beef in the world. Japan takes $1.9bn of US beef and pigmeat annually, one-quarter of all US exports. Korea is just behind on $1.7bn.

Grain-fed premium

What is particularly interesting is that on beef, it is grain-fed US product that is premium in that market. Joel Haggard explained that US beef simply couldn’t compete in the grass-fed space that is occupied by the South American countries and showed that US beef was commanding in excess of $8,000/t, compared with around $6,000/t for Australian and between $3,000/t and $5,000/t for the different South American countries.

No doubt the product mix of cuts supplied has an impact on values but it is interesting to note that it is grain fed, not grass fed that is considered the premium product.

Challenge for Ireland

Ireland of course is a grass-fed beef country, not grain fed, and we are in the process of having this recognised by applying for PGI recognition.

However, it will be a challenge to create a premium value for grass fed in an Irish context when the South American offering is already well established as the value option for beef. It will require an exceptional marketing and communication campaign by Bord Bia to position Irish grass fed as the premium grass fed offering before going on to compete against the established grain fed territory occupied by the US, Australia and Canada.

Read more

Taoiseach asks Chinese premier to lift ban on Irish beef

Chinese market would ‘help underpin beef prices’ – McConalogue