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Opportunities in the Middle East

07 July 2020

Australia’s red meat industry is anticipated to receive in excess of $100 million in additional returns as a result of shelf life restrictions being eased for chilled meat products exported to a range of markets in the Middle East.

A number of countries in the Middle East have a legal maximum shelf life for a wide range of products. In Australia, Europe, or the United States, it is the packer’s responsibility to assign a shelf life.

Through concerted efforts between MLA and the Australian Government to collect and disseminate scientific data and advocacy on behalf of the industry, shelf life restrictions are being eased for chilled, vacuum-packed beef and sheepmeat.

The easing of shelf life restrictions is a major breakthrough for the Australian red meat industry.

Longer shelf life allows more time for product to be sold after entering the country, allows more product to be sent by sea rather than air, allows product to be on the shelf more regularly, and ensures less product is unsold at the expiry date.

A few recent examples around shelf-life restrictions include:

  • Kuwait: has recently approved shelf-life extension from 70 days to 120 days for beef and 90 days for sheepmeat
  • Jordan: has approved a temporary shelf-life extension on beef from 90 to 120 days and continues to work on a permanent amendment
  • Qatar: is in the final stage of amending beef shelf-life to 120 days (with both beef and sheepmeat currently granted 90 days)
  • Saudi Arabia: has disseminated a draft regulation to take red meat shelf-life from a mandatory 70 days to being non-prescribed, meaning commercial entities can determine the expiry
  • Egypt: where a shelf-life trial in conjunction with the Egyptian ministry has been completed, and while there is still a way to go on this one, it is looking hopeful.

MLA is assisting the export trade to implement the changes to their product’s shelf life and will continue to monitor and advocate for permanent changes in markets that have not yet made a permanent change.

Markets yet to ease shelf life restrictions include Saudi Arabia, which has disseminated a draft regulation to take red meat shelf life from a mandatory 70 days to being non-prescribed, meaning commercial entities can determine the expiry. These proposed amendments have the potential to significantly increase the chilled meat offering at retail to Saudi consumers as well as aiding in food security and decreasing food waste.

And in Egypt, the Animal Health Research Institute, responsible for government research, in collaboration with the MLA MENA office has just completed shelf life studies on Australian beef that would justify a 120-day shelf life. This has come of the back of an MOU signed between the Egyptian

General Organisation of Veterinary Services and DAWRE, allowing further listings of approved Australian export facilities and the entry of manufacturing meat into Egypt.

Qatar is also in the process of reviewing its standard after submissions from the Australian Embassy in Qatar supported by MLA.

The impact of easing shelf life restrictions is evident in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The changes announced by the UAE in 2017 which saw shelf life for beef extended from 70 to 120 days, and sheepmeat from 70 to 90 days, have been estimated to be worth $13 million per annum to the industry. Listen here to MLA Managing Director, Jason Strong, discussing the benefits of easing shelf life restrictions with the ABC.