The national cattle herd in Australia is continuing to grow reaching the highest level in a decade this year at 28.7 million head, according to the latest quarterly cattle industry projection from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

While the Aussie cattle herd is growing, so to is its influence on the UK beef market.

UK beef imports from Australia in June 2023 have almost quadrupled on the level of beef imports from Australia in June 2022, according to the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

The bar chart below shows the total fresh/frozen beef imports from Australia to the UK:

Source: HMMC via Trade Data Monitor LLC

The free trade agreement (FTA) between the UK and Australia kicked in on May 31, 2023, which grants tariff-free quotas (TRQ) on Australian beef.

Recorded shipments of Australian beef to the UK have totalled 384t in June under the new TRQ.

For comparison, the UK imported an average of 15,400t from Ireland in the same period which is 68% of the UK’s total beef imports in June 2022.

The TRQs allow this Australian beef to enter the UK without paying for tariffs which would usually increase the cost of importing it, according to the AHDB.

Under the new FTA, the current limit of beef imports (product weight) is 20,616t/year. This is split equally between first come, first served (FCFS), and allocated quotas.

Allocated quotas are for large exporters with an allocated tonnage they can import and are based on the size of the company.

FCFS quotas are non-allocated and fill up as and when. The total TRQ will continue to grow from 2023 to 2033, up to 110,000t.

Under the allocated TRQ, 343t of Australian beef have been shipped to the UK in the four weeks ending June 26, 2023. This is 3% of the allocated quota, with 9,984t available to enter until December 31, 2023.

Under the FCFS quota just under 41t have been shipped, with 10,267t available to enter until the end of the year.

Looking at previous years, June imports of beef from Australia have averaged 103t from 2018-2022, making up 0.4% of the UK’s beef imports in June.