GRAINFED beef exports to the European Union hit their highest level ever last year.
And if the market holds up in the EU, this should be another positive year for grainfed beef exports.
Due to a recently expanded EU grainfed beef quota, beef exported to the EU rose from just 13 tonnes in 2009, to 6263 tonnes last year - a rise of 48 per cent when compared to 2011.
Meat and Livestock Australia's market specialist for Europe Ben Larkin said the the increased volume was because Australia gained access to an EU grainfed quota in 2010, when historically the quota to the EU was predominantly grassfed.
The quota then increased from 20,000 tonnes to 48,200 tonnes mid-last year, and its administration was greatly simplified, providing increased opportunity for Australian beef exports.
However, Mr Larkin said the greater grainfed quota did not influence Australia's ability to supply grassfed beef, with the volume of grassfed beef shipments up 1 per cent, totalling 8686 tonnes last year.
Mr Larkin said the EU was importing more grainfed beef, firstly, because it was a high-quality product, and secondly, the grainfed quota had a zero per cent tariff, reducing importing costs when compared to other quotas which carry a 20 per cent tariff.
Mr Larkin said MLA had noticed an increase in the number of livestock becoming EU accredited producers have to be EU accredited to be considered for the market.
"We don't have any hard figures but there is a suggestion that there is a bit of a premium for producers for EU-accredited product."
This was evident at this month's southern Australian weaner sales, when EU-accredited calves commanded a premium of up to 5c/kg.
"The opening up of this quota has been a positive development and acted as another opportunity for beef producers when other markets have slowed down."
Mr Larkin said, while the grainfed quota was one shared between Australia, the US, New Zealand, Canada and Uruguay, it was ongoing and access for Australian producers was expected for years to come.
"It has certainly been one of the positive developments in the grainfed market in the last few years."