Exports of northern feeder and slaughter cattle from ports as far south as Brisbane could be on the cards this season if high volume import orders from South East Asia continue.
Indonesia has released import permits for 273,000 cattle for delivery between April and June, more than originally allocated for the entire 2013 calendar year, while demand for cattle from Vietnam is also growing at pace.
On ABC Landline last Sunday rural commodities analyst Kerry Lonergan alluded to the prospect that live export vessels for SE Asia could soon be loaded out of Brisbane as exporters push further south to secure the numbers they need to fill this year's big export orders.
A Queensland-based live export industry source, who asked not to be named, told Beef Central this week that all exporters would be closely assessing every cattle sourcing and port loading option in the current supply/demand climate, Central Queensland and Brisbane included.
“There are a number of things to take into consideration with shipping times, the price of cattle, and infrastructure and cattle type, so all that would be being assessed by exporters at the moment,” the exporter said.
“It is a case of weighing up the cost of the ship coming down versus the cost of trucking cattle up, they are the things we have to take into account."
The Port of Brisbane is already home to a long-running live cattle shipping trade, with around 10,000-20,000 high-value Wagyu cattle exported from the port to feedlots in Japan each year.
Short-term pressure on supply should ease somewhat in coming weeks with first-round musters in the Northern Territory and Kimberley now well underway.
However, the task of sourcing, loading and shipping 273,000 cattle within three months, plus filling other orders to markets such as Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, still represents a significant challenge and logistical test for exporters.
Another source told Beef Central that congestion issues in existing ports such as Darwin and Townsville could also provide some motivation for exporters to seek to load vessels further south along the east coast if they see an opportunity to access and load cattle more swiftly in those ports.
If high volume import orders from Indonesia and Vietnam continue into the second half of the year, when available cattle supplies across the Top End will have inevitably tightened, exports from ports such as Brisbane could well become an attractive option, and would inject additional competition into the market for steers in Southern Queensland.