Australian beef exports have increased in key markets such as Japan and China

Australian beef exports have increased in key markets as there is a demand for Australian products.

Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) market intelligence manager, Scott Tolmie, said Australian beef exports were up 13 per cent for the year-to-date (January to June) with key markets, such as Japan, Korea and China, recording double digit growth.

“Australian beef exports are now forecast to increase 10 per cent in 2018, to 1.11 million tonnes shipped weight,” he said.

Live cattle exports have also increased over the past six months – lifting 23 per cent year-on-year to 487,000 head, led by increased throughput out of Darwin.

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Seasonal conditions during spring would play a critical role in how the cattle market tracked, with any improvement to pasture conditions likely to see demand for young cattle and females increase, Tolmie said.

The news of increased exports comes at a time where farmers across Australia are dealing with ongoing drought conditions.

Ongoing dry weather, combined with a surge in female turn-off, has seen Australian cattle slaughter forecasts revised upwards to 7.8 million head for 2018, 9 per cent higher than the 2017 total, according to MLA cattle industry projections mid-year update.

For the first five months of 2018, Australian adult cattle slaughter totalled 3.1 million head – an increase of 11 per cent, or 300,000 head, from the same period last year. But this was still 7 per cent below the five-year average.

Tolmie said female cattle had largely driven the year-on-year increase, with a 21 per cent rise in the number of cows and heifers processed, and a modest 2 per cent lift in male cattle slaughter.

“Female cattle slaughter in May almost reached 403,200 head – the highest monthly volume since July 2015,” he said.

“Persistent dry conditions have seen the average national adult carcase weight forecast for the 2018 calendar year revised downwards, to 292kg/head. However, the upwards revision to slaughter more than outweighs the expected drop in carcase weights, with beef production for 2018 now forecast to increase 7 per cent to 2.3 million tonnes carcase weight,” said Tolmie.

While slaughter levels were expected to remain elevated, and a modest contraction in the national herd is forecast, the inundation of supply, and subsequent price reaction which the industry experienced in 2013-2015 was not anticipated to repeat itself, he said.

“The weight of supply placed some pressure on prices throughout autumn, particularly for young cattle. However, falls could have been much more pronounced if not for strong growth in some key Asian export markets,” said Tolmie.

“Demand in these markets has held firm in the face of increased product coming from both Australia and the United States. The flow-on for producers domestically has been continued price-support for finished cattle, cows and feeder suitable cattle,” he said.