Putting Victorian red meat on international tables

Andrew Cox (Photo supplied by MLA)

Andrew Cox, who heads up international markets at Meat and Livestock Australia, speaks about new markets while managing the impact of the pandemic.

Andrew Cox moved to Singapore at the start of 2020 to help develop new export markets for Australian red meat and showcase Australian produce. While the pandemic has put a pause on travel, his team has continued to build the reputation of Australian red meat and he’s looking forward to things beginning to return to normal.

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) is the industry body responsible for red meat marketing and research and development services for Australia’s cattle, sheep and goat producers.

Lambassador participants at a farm near GeelongAndrew said the ‘Lambassador’ program, where chefs come to Melbourne to learn about lamb cooking techniques and the industry, has continued in a new form through the pandemic.

“Melbourne is obviously such a great food city and the creativity and skills of chefs there is incredible. Pre-COVID we were able to bring chefs over to really experience the city and the state. Victoria leads the country in terms of lamb production, with around 40 per cent of the market, so it’s a great destination for us,” he said.

“Fortunately, we’ve still been able to continue the program, just without the international travel component. We’ve set up peer-to-peer Lambassadors in Singapore and Japan and now have some great chefs that are real supporters of Australian lamb. We’ve also been running e-learning sessions which have allowed us to share skills more broadly than if it was a few people in-person in a kitchen.”

“Part of our work is introducing lamb to countries that view it as a lower quality meat or where it has stigma attached, so getting chefs to connect with each other over lamb is really important. We just try to get people to try lamb because we know the product is fantastic.”

Promoting Australian lamb in Japan “Looking into next year we’re hoping to bring some great Australian chefs who are based in the United States to come to a central location, maybe in the United Arab Emirates, so people can travel there from other nearby markets. Ideally though, the promotion starts with Victoria so we’re looking forward to being able to bring people to Victoria again.”

As part of its work in marketing red meat to export destinations, MLA has received a $2.5 million grant to promote premium Victorian beef and lamb products in both established and emerging markets.

Andrew says that the grant will help them explore new markets including in Southeast Asia and continues a long partnership with the Victorian Government.

“We have people working in about 15 locations across the world and looking at how to get into new markets like Canada, Thailand and Vietnam.  Most of our marketing funds come from our producer levies so it’s great to have the Victorian Government on board to support our export potential.”

“There’s a strong market in the United States for premium Australian grass-fed beef, so we’re wanting to expand into Canada where there’s some great opportunities.”

Funding was provided from Agriculture Victoria as part of the $15 million Food to Market program and Global Victoria, through the $4.7m Global Victoria Trade Alliance.

To find out more about how Global Victoria can help your business expand to new international markets visit the Global Victoria website for exporters.

Andrew’s top three pandemic business tips:

1. Patience - Is number one in both my business and personal life at the moment! Make sure you stay patient and keep working towards your goals and it will pay off in the end.

2. Find a way - Not everything will work but look at new technologies to invest in or ways to bring people together virtually. Keep flexible, make sure you always have a few different plans and be prepared to take on a bit of risk.

3. Don't wait for 'normal' - It’s easy to do nothing at the moment and to think everything will be cancelled or is too difficult. But you can’t wait for the pandemic to be over, you need to keep moving forward.