THE United Kingdom (UK) will start to export beef to South Africa for the first time in 15 years.
The English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX) announced last week that UK beef producers could export to what was once their largest non-EU market for English beef, before the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) crisis hit the UK in 1996.
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) economist Tim McRae said it would have a limited impact on Australia exports.
"We don't send much product to South Africa in terms of beef and veal," he said.
"It used to be a major market for Australian mutton and at its best it took 35,000 tonnes in 2000, when we used to produce a lot more mutton."
Australia's biggest export to South Africa since 2000 was 3100t of beef in 2006. Last year it exported 1500t.
Australia has only exported 500t of beef there so far this year.
"It has been a rapidly declining market from a combination of being a price-sensitive market and our falling mutton production," he said.
"Our shipments are favouring higher valued markets."
Mr McRae said Australia used to export more to South Africa when the dollar was low.
"For all protein products South Africa is a price-sensitive market," he said.
"It was only when the dollar was low in 2000 and 2001 when we sent a lot of product there but now we are sending our product to more lucrative markets, like the Middle East and even North African countries."
Mr McRae said he wasn't exactly sure why the UK would be reopening its exports to South Africa but admitted every beef-exporting country was looking at serving as many markets as possible.
"The UK exports some beef but it's not a major one on a global scale," he said.
"I would imagine from their viewpoint it's just another market they can send some product to.
"They are heavily reliable on their neighbouring markets through the EU.
"It is a positive for their industry but in terms of direct competition with us, it is only a minor sort of issue."