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European market elusive for WA beef

WA beef producers are enjoying their highest prices ever, despite failure to crack the potentially lucrative European market.

Producers are getting between $2.60 and $2.70 per kilogram for cows and between $3 and $3.20 for yearlings.

Despite the recent Mad Cow Disease and Foot and Mouth outbreaks, it seems Europe does not want WA beef.

The continent has enough of a beef surplus to meet its demands for a while. Europeans also demand Hormone Growth Promotant-free beef, something that is scarce in WA. Australia only has a 7,000-tonne quota into Europe.

WA Farmers Federation meat section president Barry Bell said WA’s international beef trade was strong.

“In the long term, because the Europeans have had to slaughter so many animals, they may give us access to more of their meat market,” he said. “The world’s herd is at a low point.”

Mr Bell said WA’s poor rainfall had not been conducive to growing herds.

Australia’s beef herd size problems are not a unique situation.

The US recently went through a liquidation of its herd.

With US beef flooding the market, there was little incentive for farmers to keep increasing their herd sizes.

But, with that liquidation, the US is now a beef market for WA.

According to Agriculture WA figures, Indonesia has proved a major growth market for WA’s live cattle trade. Jordan is another expanding market, particularly for bulls.

EG Green Group chief executive officer Garry Minton said the cattle shortage was posing a problem for boxed meat sellers.

“Our biggest problem is the growth in live cattle export,” Mr Minton said.

Farmers are getting better prices for live cattle so boxed meat producers are being pushed back in the queue.

He said EG Green’s Harvey Beef brand was growing in popularity and had broken into the Middle East market.

“They like our beef and want more of it,” he said.

Agriculture Minister Kim Chance said the Meat Standards Australia meat grading system had played a role in the growth of popularity of WA beef overseas.

“The MSA system has improved the integrity and performance of supply chain management and enhanced the competitiveness of WA beef such that exporters are in a stronger position to access new markets,” he said.

Agriculture WA has invested more than $1 million to support the implementation of the MSA grading system in WA.

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