Mass cattle movements are underway across northern Australia as exporters rush to fill an Indonesian import permit within a shorter than normal time-frame.
It is always a busy time of year for cattle producers, agents and exporters across the north, but an extended wet season means the trade is working overtime to meet this quarter's import deadline.
The Indonesian Government has issued a permit for the April-June quarter allowing for the import of 200,000-220,000 cattle in the approach to Ramadan, a period of peak beef demand.
The three month period to fill that permit has been cut short by the wettest wet season on record in the Northern Territory.
“In the full month of April you couldn’t access most of the Territory or any of the Kimberley, so it shortened the quarter down to two months,” Northern Territory Live Exporters Association chief executive officer Adam Hill said.
“That is why we’re seeing this big rush of ships at the moment.”
Mr Hill said more than 30,000 head of cattle have been shipped out of Darwin over the past three weeks, with two to three ships in port every week. Another 20,000 are loading in Wyndham and 15,000 in Broome. Wellard Rural Exports MV Ocean
Shearer left Townsville with more than 11,000 last week, with another ship due there next week.
Prices have been much higher than usual this year, with supply restrictions caused by weight limits holding prices consistently above 200c/kg, Mr Hill said.
The prolonged wet season not only caused mustering and transport delays, but also increased the challenges of finding adequate supplies of cattle under the maximum 350kg weight restrictions introduced by Indonesia last year.
“There was always the fear that because of the restriction in weight, that if they can’t get them off early enough because of the wet season then they might exceed the weight limit,” Mr Hill said.
“They had a pretty good spike in grass in late October last year, and those cattle have been on green feed for a long time.
“But a lot of producers up here are fairly well geared to the 350kg specification. They are geared to turning off animals younger and increasing their breeding numbers and increasing their turnover.”
Cattle that do exceed weight limits will either go to one of the smaller live export markets that do not have weigt restrictions such as the Philippines, Malaysia or Brunei, or go south to restocker or processor buyers.