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Research report shows resilience of red meat processing industry during COVID-19

15 December 2021

A recently released research report commissioned by AMPC, showed the strong performance of the red meat processing industry during the pandemic in 2020. The industry was able to maintain reliable supplies to both domestic and international customers under challenging circumstances. 

The study, conducted by BIS Oxford Economics looked at the period from 1 April to 30 September 2020.

The report stated that the industry not only dealt with the pandemic within processing plants themselves, but it also dealt with logistical and labour supply shocks. The skill and flexibility of the meat processing industry was a contributing factor for the pandemic creating only modest impacts on industry revenues.

The report - Impact of Covid-19 on the red meat processing industry - made a number of findings that indicate a strong and resilient sector. The report found that while the broader industry took an estimated 3% hit to national revenue during the most severe period of COVID-19 impact (April to September 2020), processors performed well. On the ground, they demonstrated skill and flexibility in managing logistical and workforce disruptions to maintain supplies to domestic and international markets.

AMPC CEO Chris Taylor said: “Australia’s red meat processors coped relatively well with the pandemic during 2020. 

“Australia’s reputation was enhanced as it emerged as a reliable supplier relative to its competitors.

“The pandemic has reinforced Australia’s resilience enabling it to demonstrate the country’s strengths in terms of reliability and quality of product.”

Australia’s export performance during the pandemic was affected by the impacts of restocking. However, Australia’s key international competitors such the United States and Argentina suffered considerably more disruption to their exports than Australia. New Zealand also performed well while Brazil appears to have made a remarkable recovery to expand exports. The report recommends that Australia’s strong performance is something that should be capitalised on in the post-pandemic years.

Domestically, the issue of future workforce and supply remains an important issue. Recently we have seen the reopening of borders which may have eased these pressures. However, it’s unlikely that the industry’s work force structure will return to its pre-pandemic levels. 

Over the long-term, the report outlined future strategies including: 

Pandemic and general disaster preparedness

The Australian red meat industry coped well when confronted by the pandemic. This was due to the skill, dedication, and flexibility of many in the industry and allied industries such as transport and logistics and retailers. The pandemic acted as an unforeseen industry “stress test”. 

The report recommended that Federal and State governments and industry work together on future disaster preparedness.

Export diversification

Our international competitors' challenges highlight the potential for Australia to focus on more actively promoting its strengths in the global market. The growth opportunity lies in diversifying export opportunities to capitalise on the reputation we've developed as a safe and reliable supplier of quality red meat products.

In 2019, China accounted for 28.5% of Australia's red meat exports. Since then, both Covid and trade tensions have impacted that market. The processor sector recognises the potential for capitalising on its performance during the pandemic to explore opportunities for expansion into markets in India and South-East Asia. It may also be possible to take advantage of recent changes to demand in the post-Brexit UK and the EU.

AMPC is commissioning an updated report on the impact of Covid on the processing sector in 2021 due for release in 2022.

For more information

Contact Communications and Media Manager, Maria Stathis on 0428 694 801 or email m.stathis@ampc.com.au