Australian beef exports for the first six months of 2015 have been surging, up 11% year-on-year with shipments at 646,685t, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) has said.

It said that momentum is only likely to slow a small amount, if at all, in the second half of 2015 and exports are now on track to be 2% higher than the 2014 record at 1.32m tonnes.

MLA said that this is being driven by high cattle slaughter and strong demand, principally from the US, Japan and Korea.

The US will be Australia’s largest market again for 2015; after six months, the volume to the US was 227,148t, up 48%, followed by Japan (141,814t, up 7%) and Korea (78,786t, up 8%), it said.

These are the only major markets where export volumes were significantly up year-on-year after the first six months, according to MLA.

It attributes the rise in demand for imported Australian beef to the lower Australian Dollar/ US Dollar exchange rate and high US cattle and beef prices.

Volumes to China, MLA said, remain steady at 68,263t year-on-year.

Longer-term, access to the US will be restrained by quota (the 64,835t global quota) and an out-of-quota tariff of 26.5%, while to China the rate of plant approvals will be the main influence, it said.

Domestically, due to an intense international trading environment (and consequently high beef prices) MLA said there are tighter beef volumes available for the domestic market.

According to MLA, domestic utilisation for 2015 is forecast to drop 15% year-on-year, to 608,400t, resulting in per capita consumption slipping to 25.63kg.

Despite this ongoing decline in consumption over the coming years, Australia will remain the most valuable market for Australian beef and the main market for loin cuts, it said.