The MLA’s 2015 cattle industry projections quarterly update indicated that exports for the first part of the year had surged, said MLA manager of market information Ben Thomas.
Shipments were up 11% year-on-year, and on track to be 2% higher than last year’s record, at 1.32 million tonnes swt.
“Beef exports are well on their way to exceeding last year’s record and this would make it the fourth year in a row that beef export volumes have exceeded the previous year’s totals,” said Thomas.
“The factors contributing to this are the A$/US$ exchange rate, strong global beef prices, high Australian beef production and unrelenting demand from Australia’s traditional three top export markets.”
Australia exports about three quarters of its beef to more than 100 countries around the world. But the top four destinations combined – the US, Japan, Korea, as well as the emergence of China, will make up about 80% of its beef exports this year.
Thomas said the number of cattle sold or live exported over the past two years had been so high that the national cattle herd was reducing to about a 20-year low. It had fallen by three million head from 2014, he claimed.
‘Fewer cattle on market’
“We're going to see fewer cattle on the market during the next couple of years, and with female cattle slaughter going higher year-on-year for 31 consecutive months, this means the herd rebuild will be slow.
“This smaller pool of cattle will put the Australian beef industry in a very interesting situation over the next five years, especially at the processing end. With 23% less cattle available, there will be lower volumes for all customers.
"Yet with such an intense international trading environment, the value of the cattle market is set to continue, provided the current supply and demand situation holds true,” Thomas said.
On the live export front, Australian cattle shipments are anticipated to reach 950,000 head this year, down 27% year-on-year, with Indonesia and Vietnam remaining the two largest destinations.