Cattle exports from Darwin have been running at high levels as dry conditions across much of northern Australia drive higher than usual ‘wet season’ cattle turnoff rates.
Figures released by the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters’ Association this week show that more than 100,000 cattle have been shipped from the port since the beginning of December.
The last time more than 100,000 cattle were exported from the port over a December, January and February period was during the 2014-15 wet season when around 115,000 were shipped from the port.
NTLEA chairman David Warriner said live exports were providing an important market for producers having to turn cattle off because of drought.
“Stations enduring prolonged dry are selling cattle, and with severe drought in much of Queensland restricting selling options there, demand from live exporters is proving particularly valuable to the market,” Mr Warriner said.
While market indicators for young cattle in the eastern states have fallen in recent weeks, live export prices have remained buoyant, the NTLEA said, with suitable steers being quoted at $3.35 a kilogram liveweight.
“With the price sitting at around $3/kg for much of the end of 2018, livestock exports remain a good option for producers and sets a positive floor price in the whole market for young cattle,” Mr Warriner said.
“The very dry conditions will continue to put downward pressure on prices and we do expect live export prices may retreat in the coming weeks, though perhaps not as pronounced as the decline in rates in eastern saleyards.”
Mr Warriner said the importance to producers of live export competition and its ability to absorb cattle coming on to the market which aren’t well suited to feedlots and processors could not be underestimated.
“For producers battling tough seasons, the most important thing for them is that the market remains rock solid and there is genuine demand and competition for their cattle,” he said.
Strong demand from South East Asia, which saw more than 400,000 cattle exported in 2018, and the signing of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) last week was a confidence booster for the trade.
“IA-CEPA strengthens our cattle relationship with Indonesia, which remains our major market, and consolidates the long-term links from producers in the north through to feedlot workers in Indonesia and consumers of clean, green, affordable beef sourced from Australia cattle.”