AUSTRALIAN beef exporters are hoping to get a large chunk of the new European Union beef export quota, announced last week, which opens the door for duty-free global access to a new specialty market for high quality grain-fed beef up to 20,000 tonnes.
Until now, Australian exporters have only been able to supply beef to Europe within a 7000 tonne quota which came with a 20 per cent import tariff, and anything over and above the quota was hit with 100 per cent duty.
This new high-quality market brings new hope for Australian exporters at a time when the high dollar and shocking domestic prices are hurting the industry.
Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, said since the EU announced the new quota in August, the Australian Government has worked closely with the Australian beef industry to ensure that Australia could meet the quota requirements.
"It provides a considerable opportunity for the Australian beef industry to develop its presence in the European Union market with a particular focus on high quality Australian product."
Minister for Agriculture, Tony Burke said Australia had been detailing its quality control and inspection regimes to the European Union authorities over recent months to ensure industry measures and processes meet the EU’s new high quality requirements.
The Government says high quality beef is a niche product, requiring cattle to be fed on a strict diet.
The United States is the only other country to have been granted access to the quota so far.
Cattle Council of Australia president, Greg Brown, welcomed the announcement as recognition of Australia’s excellent food quality and safety systems.
"Our ability to meet the high standards set by importing countries such as the EU enhances our reputation as a supplier of high quality, safe and hygienic beef products," Mr Brown said.
"This is a very specific product that Australia has been authorised to supply."
Mr Brown said the amount Australian exporters can deliver under this quota will be determined by European importers, but the timing was nonetheless a boost for the industry.
He said while the new quota is greatly valued, he concedes the specifications for this high quality beef quota will limit the number of processors and exporters that can deliver under it.