* Australian beef exports to hit record high in 2013/14 - ABARES
* Demand from Asia and United States to drive growth - ABARES
* China to become fourth-largest market for Australian beef, veal (Adds quotes, detail)
By Colin Packham
SYDNEY, June 18 Australia will export a record amount of beef in 2013/14, driven by strong demand from the United States and emerging markets, including China, the government's official forecaster said on Tuesday.
Beef and veal exports in the coming season were expected to total 1.07 million tonnes, up from a record 1.015 million this year, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) said in its quarterly report.
The increase would be underpinned by stronger demand from Asia, while a rise in demand from the United States would offset falling sales in other markets, including Japan following an easing of import restrictions on U.S. beef.
The latest export forecast for the 2013/14 marketing year is up 7 percent from ABARES' March forecast of an even 1 million tonnes.
ABARES said demand in the current season had risen substantially from China, where a wealthier middle class is increasingly turning to a higher protein diet, and forecast sales growth of about 10 percent.
China is set to become the fourth-largest market for Australia's beef and veal exports this year.
"Since September 2012 monthly exports to China have averaged 9,000 tonnes, compared with average monthly exports of around 500 tonnes over the five years to August 2012," the forecaster said in its quarterly report. "In 2013-14 exports to China are forecast to increase to around 120,000 tonnes."
ABARES noted that Australian beef exports enjoy favourable access to China after it restricted sales from the United States and Brazil over mad cow disease fears.
Australian beef exports to Southeast Asia would rise 6 percent during the 2013/14 season, to reach 95,000 tonnes, ABARES said, offsetting a slide in expected sales to Indonesia, previously one of Australia's largest markets.
"Increased exports to the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore have more than offset a 24 per cent decline in exports to Indonesia, which are being restricted by the Indonesian government's maintenance of a quota on beef imports," it said.
Exports of beef to the United States were expected to rise 10 percent in 2013/14, driven by lower domestic supplies, and increased demand for Australian beef, aided by a weaker dollar.
However, ABARES expected sales of beef to Japan to decline after it eased its restriction on U.S. imports in February, relaxing a safeguard against mad cow disease that has frustrated North American producers for a decade.
Australian exports in 2013/14 were expected to decline 7 percent from the current season, ABARES said, as U.S. imports took a greater share of the market at the expense of Australian beef.
ABARES held its sugar production forecast for the 2013/14 season unchanged at 4.54 million tonnes. (Editing by Richard Pullin)