Mackas Beef comes through drought and COVID-19

Export beef business comes through drought, fires and COVID-19

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Australian beef exports rebounding in China.

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Bruce, Jack, James and Robert Mackenzie of Mackas Beef. The family has come through drought, fire, floods and COVID in the last 12 months. Photo supplied.

Bruce, Jack, James and Robert Mackenzie of Mackas Beef. The family has come through drought, fire, floods and COVID in the last 12 months. Photo supplied.

Chinese demand for Australian beef is rebounding after taking a hit due to coronavirus, with food safety and quality paramount in Chinese consumers' minds.

Meat and Livestock Australia reported beef exports to China were down 11 per cent for March year-on-year, but up 10pc on February.

The Mackenzie family of Mackas Beef had just got their 3000 Angus cow herd through the drought and survived both fires and floods, when COVID-19 hit, throwing a curve ball at the export side of their business.

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The three generation, family-run operation, grow out their own cattle for export in a 150-day grain fed program.

They have two properties near Gloucester, Woko Station and Berrico, and one at Salt Ash, Oakfield Park

Since 2015, Robert Mackenzie has travelled to Asia 14 times to promote Mackas Beef, aiming at the high-end food service sector.

"We try to be innovative and have had success doing so, one of those success stories was when we sent beef and lamb to China to make dumplings with Crazy Dragon," he said.

He said after the challenges of drought, fire and flood, it was shaping up to be a great year for the business.

"We worked extremely hard to maintain our 3000 cow herd throughout the drought, putting down bores and running intense stock water infrastructure.

"We spent close to $400,000 on feed and moved stock around to chase grass."

They also contended with bushfires on one property and floods on others.

Mackas Beef had product headed for China held up in Brisbane due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo supplied.

Mackas Beef had product headed for China held up in Brisbane due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo supplied.

Mr Mackenzie said at first he didn't realise how great an effect COVID-19 would have on Australia but knew it would impact sales and shipping in China.

"We had Mackas 150 Day Product arriving in Shanghai and also on the water, this was worrying," he said.

"We were lucky that the import process for those containers went smoothly.

"Our Retail Ready Skin Pack Product that we send by air freight containers were held up in Brisbane due to less flights and medical supplies sent to China, air freight went from $2/kg to $5/kg."

He said the demand in China stopped like a tap at first, but in the last week it had begun to turn around.

"We have seen interest grow considerably which is a good indication that China is getting back to some form of normal," Mr Mackenzie said.

"In China now 79 per cent of people are cooking for home and there is more focus on food safety and quality than ever before, this puts Australia in a good position to promote our clean, green, fresh branding.

"Our biggest issue is how do we give the consumer confidence that they are purchasing true Australian products.

"Food fraud is a problem throughout the world, the cost estimated to be over $40 billion per annum."

He said to give traceability to the consumer they had developed smart label technology which would be launched in Australia in the coming weeks.

The optimistic view of the market was shared by Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson.

"We're still almost 70 per cent above our 2019 record year to the end of March for export to China," Mr Hutchinson said.

"We had a huge January but obviously February and March were down."

Export in January was 73pc up on 2019, Mr Hutchinson said that was due to the growing popularity for Australian beef at Lunar New Year.

"Australian product was seen as a premium and something that they wanted to be celebrating with," Mr Hutchinson said.

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