HEAVY steers for Vietnam are going onto ships leaving Townsville at prices of over $4/kg liveweight, as a lack of numbers, exacerbated by the return to a traditional wet season, and strong market demand push the northern cattle market into never-before-seen territory.
Cattle exports to Vietnam climbed to a six-year high of 297,721 head in 2020, according to just released official export data for the calendar year (further full year export data below).
With demand for cattle to supply Tet holiday festivities (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) from February 12 now in full swing, export activity has maintained a strong pace in January, with six vessels taking another 20,000 heavy cattle out of North Queensland this month.
That compares to a five year average for January cattle exports from Townsville to Vietnam of about 12,000 head.
Exporters are being forced to pay unprecedented prices to secure the cattle they need to meet the demand, which has reportedly seen cattle sourced from as far south as Tamworth in NSW to help fill orders.
In early December cattle to Vietnam from Townsville were trading around $3.80c/kg.
In Darwin the price for feeder steers is still reported to be $4/kg liveweight for cattle being loaded onto ships, with talk of $4.10 now required to complete consignments.
Compared to where prices stood in April 2020 at 260c/kg, current price levels now represent a 50 percent increase since that time.
The high prices of Australian cattle were the major reason for a significant 30 percent year on year decrease in cattle exports to Indonesia in 2020.
Indonesia imported 34,581 cattle in December, taking the final overall volume for 2020 to 474,167 head.
That compares to 683,887 cattle in 2019, and ranks 2020 as the lowest year for annual imports by Indonesia since the trade suspension year of 2011.
Looked at from another perspective, as Dr Ross Ainsworth pointed out in his column last Friday, exports of almost 500,000 head to Indonesia was an encouraging result in a year that saw the price of Australian feeder cattle rise so dramatically.
Monthly export figures for December 2020:
Annual export figures for 2020:
Annual exports from Australian ports in 2020: