In recent years, the Asian continent has been a significant growth area for global beef exports. Underpinned by numerous emerging economies and growing household incomes throughout the region, beef exports in 2018 continue to grow at an astounding rate. Asia now accounts for almost 50% of total global beef imports (including imports from both within and outside Asia). The top five beef importers in Asia (China, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and Hong Kong) account for around 80% of total Asian imports. With the exception of Vietnam, which trades predominately with India, all have recorded strong growth in 2018, with the majority of beef sent to those countries coming from outside Asia. China has recorded the strongest growth in the region, up around 46% in the first eight months of 2018, based on a collation of data from countries exporting beef to China. Similarly, South Korea and Japan have also both recorded strong growth in the year.
With a 14% increase year-on-year, beef exports to South East Asian countries* have also been growing. A young population, increasing urbanisation and a booming tourism industry is impacting consumer demand and as a result, the demand for beef imports. Buffalo meat from India still makes up a large majority of total imports however increasingly more beef is being sourced from elsewhere, as consumer demand for high quality beef gains momentum. Major exporters, Australia, the US and New Zealand have all recorded growth in the region in the year to August. Contrastingly, Europe has lost ground in the SE Asian market, predominantly due to Irish exports to the Philippines reducing significantly from 2017’s promising levels.
Not including India, Australia is the largest exporter of beef into Asia, followed by Brazil and the US. Together, these three countries account for almost 60% of total Asian beef imports, including trade from within Asia, and as such continue to dominate the Asian market. All three countries have good trade relationships within Asia and offer a well-known product which is extremely competitively priced. Notwithstanding that, this hasn’t prevented other countries from growing in the region as demand continues to outstrip supply. Argentina has grown exports to Asia over 85% in 2018 compared to a year ago, mainly capitalising on increased Chinese demand. Going forward, growth in the Chinese markets is expected to continue, albeit at a slower pace due to on-going trade wars impacting Chinese GDP growth. Growth in Asia as a whole can also be expected to continue, with plenty of room for economic growth in some of the smaller markets, which will undoubtedly become more valuable as time goes on. Indeed, Gira Foods forecasts that the majority of beef demand growth over the next ten years in this part of the world, will come from per capita income growth, rather than population growth.
* Includes Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei Darussalam