Beefing up confidence

Jason Strong, MLA Managing Director.

PRECEDE

There is much to feel incredibly positive about for Australia’s world-leading red meat and livestock industry, says MLA managing director JASON STRONG.

Herd and flock rebuilding, globally strong demand and a shortage of protein due to African Swine Fever are all contributing to record prices. We are now in some of the most prosperous times we have ever seen. Underpinning this success is a strong foundation built on what’s important to consumers across the globe – provenance and traceability, food safety, biosecurity, and nutrition backed up by consistently great eating quality.

Years of determination, innovation and hard work from red meat producers has once again enabled our industry to navigate challenges, including the global pandemic, with relatively minimal disruptions. As an industry, we should be shouting from the roof tops about how hard we have worked to constantly improve what we do! Lifting on-farm performance, displaying unwavering resilience, building relationships and diversifying our red meat markets has meant we have been able to ride out the incredibly challenging circumstances of recent years, with minimal disruptions to export volumes and values, especially relative to other industries.

And while our industry deserves to reap the rewards, we cannot rest on our laurels – at MLA we are already planning for the next 5 years and beyond and how we can support you to ensure sustained success.

We have a fantastic product with a first-rate reputation that consumers are willing to pay top dollar for which puts us in a unique position and allows the industry to strive towards the ambitious goal to double the value of red meat sales by 2030.

Our job therefore is to connect with consumers both here and around the world and make sure they continue to be excited to eat our product – getting people comfortable with the fact that Australian red meat is a high value, premium product should remain our focus. The combination of both value and consumption volumes contribute to the success of our industry and Australian red meat continues to be regarded and recognised as a high-quality protein of choice across the globe – and that’s despite the efforts of some groups with vested interests that choose to denigrate our product and farming systems.

It is clear that much of the commentary about consumers declining commitment to red meat is overblown and out of context and we shouldn’t be afraid to call it out.

MLA, on behalf of the industry, has been investing in research and marketing over the past two decades to set the industry up with this firm foundation for future success, and it is no mistake that we are taking advantage of it.

For example, when MLA was first set up 22 years ago, Australia had one free trade agreement with New Zealand. We now have 16 free trade agreements that cover most of the Asian Pacific region – notably: the 10 Association of South-east Asian Nations member countries, Korea, Japan and China. By comparison, the US has just two comprehensive FTAs with countries in that region.

Twenty years ago, the Australian red meat and livestock industry did not have a traceability system, but we now have world-leading, individual livestock traceability for cattle. We did not have a way of measuring eating quality and grading carcases based on that measurement – we now have Meat Standards Australia – a system developed with consumers at the heart of it that’s now the envy of many of our competitors because it enables Australia to produce red meat with a consistently high eating quality while also enabling producers to capture price premiums.

In summary, we need to stop being surprised by our success. Our industry has decades of commitment to being better.

We now have an opportunity to lock in as much of our progress as possible and take full advantage of the position we are in today. For MLA, this means focusing on fewer, bigger and bolder programs of work that will support our industry for the years to come and drive returns back to the farm gate.

Congratulations to the team at Queensland Farmer Today on this first edition, and I look forward to contributing again next month. In the meantime, I encourage you to join MLA’s Update Webinars taking place in October and November (visit updates.mla.com.au for more information) or please contact me via managing.director@mla.com.au