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Japan’s Wagyu Exporters Seek to Double Premium Beef Shipments

27 February 2017

UAE - Wagyu beef is fast becoming the trendiest meat brand on restaurant menus in the UAE.

The beef comes from breeds of cattle native to Japan and is considered to be a national treasure – but the brand has now spread around the globe with Australia dominating the market.

The "caviar beef" is known for its marbling and tenderness. Premium cuts of the pure-bred cattle cost up to US$400 per kilogram.

The food and beverage boom in the UAE has led restaurants to search for newer and more specialist tastes.

"We saw our exports of Wagyu beef jump by 25 per cent to the UAE last year," said Edgar Francis, manager of Karim Overseas, a Sydney-based meat exporter. He said that food is faddish and suddenly Wagyu is fashionable.

"It was like a switch suddenly being turned on and the UAE suddenly understanding the worth of the meat. Wagyu has 12 grades with 12 being the highest. We have tried to sell the premium grades but the UAE isn’t interested generally, the marbling of the meat is seen as too fatty. We have seen the boom in the mid-market grades. It is still expensive compared with other herds but the UAE is willing to pay for high-profile brands."

The apparent willingness of UAE customers to buy the best has led the Japanese to target the country, selling pure Wagyu-Kobe beef.

Japan last year exported a relatively modest 14 tonnes of the beef to the UAE, which was a 15 per cent increase on 2015. Japan’s exporters have no commercial partnerships with the UAE’s supermarket chains, so its only visibility is in fine dining restaurants that specifically sell Japanese Wagyu.

"The sales to the UAE have huge potential," said Masaru Nishiura, the executive director for the Japan External Trade Organisation. "Our product is probably four times the price of other beef and probably twice the price of Australian Wagyu, but we have pure-bred Wagyu cattle that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The biggest Wagyu exporters are Australia, United States, Chile and the UK and none have pure-bred Wagyu. We expect to have doubled our exports to the UAE by 2019."

Source: TheNational

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