As US beef cattle numbers shrink fast, Australian exporters are set to dramatically revive their share of premium value markets such as Japan, Korea and the US during 2024. US exports have dominated about 60 per cent of the high-end Asian trade shared between America and Australia since drought-ending restocker activity sent local beef and lamb prices leaping in 2020. However, Australia is likely to be turning the tables within months, according to exporter, Anthony Pratt. He believed exporters should make the most of Australia's high value meat markets rather than get too distracted with the much-discussed protein demand opportunities in riskier China. The Endeavour Meats chief executive officer tipped an uplift in Japanese orders, at least by April, and also had bullish longer term expectations of the sophisticated British market, thanks to Australia's UK free trade agreement which kicked into action this year. In fact, the UK FTA was probably a better deal than the meat industry had anticipated, although it may take another year or two for new sales arrangements to gain momentum. On the other hand, Mr Pratt urged beef producers not to over anticipate a windfall of big orders from the US, regardless of its looming beef shortage. He also warned that American lamb importers were "still wearing black eyes" after paying dearly for pandemic-related freight disruption and a subsequent fall in sales of premium value Australian imports. "From the beef perspective our biggest global competitor in the high end market is the US - we've had big problems competing with them in North Asia in the past two or three years," he told the NSW Farm Writers' Association. "The Americans took advantage of our herd rebuild and dominated our markets with 60pc to our 40pc. "Now it's swinging back the other way. "The Japanese tell us, their orders will be reversed (prioritising Australian exports) by about March, when their financial year ends." They were doing budgets for next year with those plans in mind. Mr Pratt, took the helm at Endeavour Meats this year after 17 years with processing giant, JBS Australia and Australian Meat Holdings, including a decade as JBS northern operations' chief operating officer. He said while recent beef cattle slaughter data showed the US still in a drought-enforced herd liquidation phase which had already slashed numbers to a six-decade low, producers were reluctant to cull more breeders, especially as some recent rainfall relief had emerged and forecasts seemed hopeful. The US drought has lasted twice as long as that country's past two big dry events which meant the big herd rebuild task would make US beef "a lot more expensive" at home and overseas. Significantly, Australia had masses of beef and lamb available for sale as our processors struggled to keep pace with a current destocking surge in the face of drying conditions turning droughtier. "There will be some export upside into the US beef market for us, and the US will continue to be a wonderful market, but I think that opportunity is overblown," Mr Pratt said. "I don't expect US imports will be a saviour. "What will really be important is the lack of US meat available to Japan's 115 million population and 50m consumers in South Korea." On the lamb front, global supply chains had normalised and he doubted the backlog of chilled lamb was as big as some feared. However, Mr Pratt said Australian lamb had lost some of its US market foothold when expensive chilled supplies had outlasted their shelf life and had to be dumped in 2020-21 because they sat in container ships or on docks for too long. With lamb still off the menu in many restaurants, importers were nervous about over committing, and still frustrated by local port and freight logistics delays caused by labour shortages. He was optimistic about other big potential beef markets in Asia, specifically Indonesia and Vietnam, with respective populations of 250m and 88m, and annual wage growth averaging close to 10pc compared to about 3pc elsewhere around the world. "Give an Indonesian an extra $100 and they'll likely eat their extra income, focusing on lifting their diet quality before buying a pair of new shoes," he said. However, Indonesia's rising meat appetite had also encouraged the rise of frozen Indian buffalo meat and Brazilian imports, and new chilled trade competitors which Australia had not needed to worry about a decade ago. "I expect there'll still be a strong market for live cattle, but it will increasingly compete with fresh chilled boxed beef - it depends what customers want and will pay for," he said. "Even the wet markets in Asia are much more sophisticated than 10 years ago." Despite "some sticking points" in Australia's trade with its near neighbour, he felt, on the whole, the relationship was good and building. China, also, "sucks up an enormous amount of global protein", which, in turn, added tension to global markets, but as a bulk protein market he believed it unreliable. "I could be wrong, but as we've seen, the China market has its risks," he said. "One man makes the final decision, and I don't have his phone number. "At JBS I only wanted 3pc of our overall revenue committed to China. "Although producers were always talking about China, the risk profile was just too much."