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Shift in loin export markets

25 June 2020

Key points:

  • Beef loin exports are back only 0.3% on 2019 levels for the year-to-May, slightly ahead of total beef exports, which are down 2.5%.
  • The major destinations for loin cuts have seen shifts so far in 2020, with both the US and Korea taking an increasing share in recent months.
  • Loin cuts into Japan, Australia’s largest loin market, have decreased on the back of contracting grassfed supply.

In line with total beef exports, Australian exports of beef loin cuts, (tenderloin, striploin, cube/ribeye roll), totalled almost 33,000 tonnes shipped weight (swt) in the year-to-May, remaining stable relative to 2019.

However, there has been contrasting performance between grassfed and grainfed exports, with grassfed loins declining 8% for the year-to-May on the back of reduced supply. This is in contrast to grainfed volumes, which increased by 12%, totalling almost 15,000 tonnes swt, buoyed by the elevated number of cattle on feed and record grainfed turnoff during the March quarter.  

Typically, higher value loin cuts are destined for foodservice, and with many major markets experiencing shifts in foodservice demand in the wake of COVID-19, the distribution between export destinations for loins has seen some significant shifts in recent months.

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US

The COVID-19 induced drop in US domestic production has seen Australian beef exports to the US jump in recent months to help supply the market. Loin cuts were no exception, reaching just over 1,300 tonnes swt in May, the highest level seen since 2015 (a time of elevated herd numbers and turnoff in Australia). The US, similar to many markets, has seen a significant spike in retail demand and Australia, as a leading grassfed supplier to the retail channel, has benefited from this spike in demand. Grassfed loin cuts to the market reached almost 5,000 tonnes, growing 23% year-on-year and representing 26% of total grassfed loin exports.

China

Demand for beef in China has remained firm this year, despite COVID-19 pressures. Consumers have been ‘upgrading’ their retail purchases as they seek products that boost their health and immunity, as well as relying more heavily on online channels for purchases. There has also been a strong increase in Chinese consumers’ preference for chilled product, associated with quality, taste, freshness and convenience. So far in 2020, chilled loin cuts to China have tracked above year-ago levels, almost doubling, albeit off a low base. This could be supported by consumers trying new recipes and cuisines including western style dishes, which call for different cuts to Chinese cuisine, while cooking more often at home.    

Japan

Although foodservice demand in the market has been subdued, improved retail performance has seen total beef exports to Japan remain stable for the year-to-date. Loin cuts have experienced a decline in recent months, affected by tight grassfed supply; however, this has been partially offset by grainfed volumes, which are firm year-on-year.

Korea

In the early months of the outbreak of COVID-19 in Korea, despite restaurants and other venues remaining open, the foodservice sector saw large decreases in sales. As the country continues to navigate the situation and new clusters of infections, many consumers still have a preference for eating at home rather than dining out with a group of people. This means that although foodservice has seen some increases in demand recently, it is still below pre-COVID-19 levels. In contrast, retail demand has been strong, and with recent further support by government relief funds, this is encouraging consumers to purchase from small and medium-sized businesses.

May, in particular, saw a large increase in Australian loin cuts entering the market, with a greater portion of this product now redirected into retail and online sales channels. A range of Korean retailers and online platforms have been participating in activities promoting Australian tenderloins.  

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© Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, 2020

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