Global trends for beef, lamb, wool and wheat at NRM workshop

Andrew Whitelaw, who works in risk management for Mecardo, has predicted that Australia has a bright future in beef, lamb and wool exports, with wheat being able to improve based on global consumption habits.

Mecardo specialises in market analysis of wool, grain and livestock markets, and Mr Whitelaw presented his information at a workshop hosted by South East NRM on Langkoop Road.

Beginning with beef, Mr Mecardo revealed that China is Australia's largest consumer, and that with the rise of the middle class in Asia, the demand for red meat will increase dramatically. 

The Chinese also place a high premium on beef's country of origin, with Australia and New Zealand considered to have the best beef. 

Currently the USA and Japan are Australia's biggest customers for beef, with China somewhere in the middle. But Mr Whitelaw predicts that this will change, and soon.

Another superpower that could emerge as a major export market is Africa. Worldwide the median age is between 31-36, however the median age in Africa is 18. Africa has a huge potential to grow within the next 30-50 years, explained Mr Whitelaw, and with that growth will come trade deals. 

With lamb, Australia and New Zealand are the only countries in the world who engage in large-scale exportation. China's northwest provinces and Nigeria also have large sheep populations, however they are more interested in domestic trade.

The consumption of sheepmeat is predicted to stay steady in Western nations, but there will be a rise in demand from developing nations in the future, Mr Whitelaw estimated. And, with New Zealand's agricultural industries starting to show more of an interest in beef and diary, Australia's in a position to become the world's number one sheepmeat exporter.

With wool, it will continue to be a luxury product in the future, with wool being prized in fashion over its cheaper competitors such as cotton and acrylic. The task ahead of Australian woolgrowers will be keeping up supply with demand. South African wool exports have recently been under scrutiny due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the country, which will mean that Australia's wool is now more in demand in Asia.

As a risk manager, Mr Whitelaw recommended investing in sheep, due to the animal being able to produce two streams of income with in-demand product.

In grains, wheat exports unfortunately have been struggling for the past five years, as globally, production overtakes consumption. 

Still, stocks remain high, for Australia at least. Whilst China holds 54% of the world's wheat supply, its quality levels are questionable. Russia, another major competitor, has cheap, low-grade wheat. 

Whilst Russia's product is hurting the US market, Australia's wheat industry remains stable, with values spiking. Western Australia had its second highest crop on record, and in Adelaide, wheat that usually sells for AU$40 a tonne sold for AU$200 a tonne in the October-November period last year.

Mr Whitelaw's presentation concluded the NRM workshop, with other speakers including Darren Ray from BOM, Brendan Voss from Elders, Meg Bell on behalf of the Red Meat Cluster, Melissa Rebbeck from Climate and Ag Support, and Jamie Tidy from Naracoorte Seeds.