Domestic demand for Australian beef may increase after radiation was found in meat here and amid concern that cesium leaks from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant may spread farther, according to Australian Agricultural Co. Ltd.
“We’re expecting to see better demand out of Japan as they move away from their own herds,” Chief Executive Officer David Farley said on a conference call Monday. That follows a boost in demand for beef after radiation was detected in domestic seafood in March, he said.
Cattle with excessively high levels of radioactive cesium were detected in four prefectures, the health ministry said July 23. The animals were fed tainted straw after the March earthquake and tsunami caused reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima plant. Supermarkets including the nation’s biggest, Aeon Co., said the beef was sold in Tokyo and other cities.
“As radiation is found in domestic beef, we see rising demand for clean, quality meat,” Farley said. “Australia itself should be well-positioned to meet their extra demand.”
More than 2,600 cattle have been contaminated, it was reported Saturday, after the Miyagi Prefectural Government said 1,183 cattle at 58 farms were fed the tainted hay before being shipped to meat markets. Some of the hay was found to contain as much as 690,000 becquerels per kg, compared with an official safety standard of 300 becquerels. The government banned cattle shipments from Fukushima on July 19.
Still, a strengthening Australian dollar may limit any boost to sales as imports from other countries, including the U.S., appear cheaper, Farley said.
“It’s interfering with our ability to compete for the demand,” he said. “The U.S. has increased exports to Japan 53 percent just this year, based off dollar value only.”
The Australian currency has climbed 6.8 percent against the dollar since March 1, according to Bloomberg data.
In the four weeks until July 14, export sales of beef rose 51 percent from a year earlier, with Japan buying about 4,200 metric tons, government data show. U.S. exporters have shipped 490.5 million kg in the five months that ended May 31, up 27 percent from a year earlier.
“Global demand, across the board, is in pretty good shape,” Farley said. “Where we’re competing against the other proteins of chicken, hogs and fish, red-meat protein in the big sense is still competitively cheap compared to the others.”
The forecast for increased demand for Australian beef came as the company reported a first-half net loss of 1.07 billion (12.6 million Australian dollars).
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