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Global COVID-19 update with Andrew Cox

12 May 2020

COVID-19 has disrupted global red meat markets like nothing else in recent memory. As the spread of COVID-19 widened to a global scale, Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) international markets team has continued to adapt and respond to ensure our industry and stakeholders remained informed and equipped to continue exports of quality Australian red meat.

The initial priority and focus for MLA’s international markets team was to ensure our communication lines with industry, exporters, brand owners and key stakeholders remained open and strong. This collection and dissemnination of critical in market information and insights from our international networks back to Australia’s red meat industry in a rapid and efficient way continues to be a priority for MLA – particularly as the global situation continues to evolve and change quickly from market to market.

The next priority from the MLA international markets team was evaluating the impact on planned marketing activities across the globe. Trade shows, seminars and other business development activities were cancelled or postponed alongside any activity requiring travel. Some consumer focussed promotional activities such as retail sampling ceased completely, while other activities such as campaign advertising, was amended significantly to ensure the tone and message was right (for example, no outdoor BBQ campaigns). Overall, a significant amount of planned activity has been deferred to the FY21 financial year.

The next and most significant focus has been on what we can do to support Australian brand owners and customers globally with marketing solutions that position Australian red meat positively, and help keep the trade functioning and in many markets, get the trade back on track. MLA’s global response strategy focuses on five key areas:

  1. Food hacks: Tips and tricks that help consumers learn more about cooking with red meat.
  2. Trust and integrity: Consumers are gravitating towards brands they trust and foods with nutritional benefits, and therefore reinforcing the quality and nutritional benefits of Australian red meat is paramount.
  3. Digital development: Large gatherings will be prohibited for some time and people are turning to online communications like never before, so MLA will look to online channels for events and seminars, and also work to make more content available to Australian brand owners.
  4. Tactical support: COVID-19 has disrupted supply chains with an oversupply of certain cuts and revenue loss for some customers. We have proritised our support to focus on these immediate issues and introduced short-term additional financial support measures via the CoMarketing program to support brand owners that are initiating promotions of their own. Click here for more information.
  5. Clear communication: MLA has opened several communication channels to ensure we provide a clear and consistent line of communication with domestic and global stakeholders. This includes a COVID-19 insights hub and a new podcast series which you can find here.  

Looking to Australia’s beef and lamb supply, this has remained stable and in line generally with the expectations for 2020. You can read more about the latest supply side market dynamics for Australia’s red meat in MLA’s recent quarterly Cattle Industry Projections update. The global systems Australian red meat relies on (shipping, logistics, distribution) are also mostly coping. As mentioned in the last months Global Market Update e-newsletter, some positive data recently from China indicated that concerned consumers are gravitating towards healthy foods they trust (such as Australian beef and lamb) and plan to keep it that way.

We are now entering a phase where some markets are beginning to return to normal or looking at an easing of restrictions. Our Seoul based team have returned to the office, joining our China office, while Government’s from Australia to Singapore continue to talk and outline staged plans for a return to some normality that involves an easing of restrictions in the weeks ahead.

While we don’t know exactly what the short to medium future holds as the COVID-19 global pandemic unfolds, you can be confident that the equity, including strong reputation and customer loyalty, Australian red meat has built over many decades feeding households globally remains secure.