Chinese hunger for Australian beef to drive record exports

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australia's beef exports are set to rise 7 per cent in 2013-14 to a record high to satisfy the appetite of China's increasingly affluent masses, cementing its position as China's top supplier of beef.

The world's third-largest beef exporter, however, could see production slow the next season, with cattle stocks falling to a four-year low due to drought and farmers restocking if conditions improve.

Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences (Abares) said total beef shipments from Australia would total 1.085 million tonnes in 2013-14, up slightly from the September estimate and up 7 per cent from a year earlier.

Increased demand from China will drive much of the growth in exports, with China expected to become Australia's third-largest consumer of beef in 2013-14, moving ahead of South Korea in fourth place, despite a rise in sales in Korea in 2013-14.

China will consume 160,000 tonnes of beef and veal from Australia in the 2013-14 season, up 74 per cent on a year ago and 23 per cent higher than the previous forecast in September, Australia's commodity forecaster said.

"Our exports of beef have been very strong, particularly to the emerging markets. China has increased its imports of beef from Australia very significantly," Abares chief commodity analyst Jammie Penm told Reuters.