A THREE-year run of record high prices for northern export feeder cattle appears to be drawing to a close as increased cattle supply following successive years of herd rebuilding and reduced demand in key markets put downward pressure on rates.
The first cattle import permits for 2023 have only just been released to importers by the Indonesian Government this week, and the lack of trade activity so far in January is obscuring opening price levels for the new year.
Prior to Christmas, a busy end to 2022 saw feeder Brahman steers exported from Darwin still commanding rates in the vicinity of $5.20-$5.30 per kilogram liveweight.
However feedback from trade sources this week suggest opening price levels when more shipments commence for 2023 will be well back on those levels, mirroring recent falls in domestic markets for feeder cattle.
280-380kg Brahman feeder steers ex-Darwin in late December were contracted at prices of around $4.70c/kg on the last shipments to Indonesia, while quotes offered by Nutrien on its website this week put the same category of steers at $4.20 and heifers $3.90 – a full dollar below pre-Christmas rates.
The price picture will become clearer when a greater volume of ships start to move in 2023, but trade dynamics suggest that could be some weeks yet.
Exporters have told Beef Central that the Indonesian market is still seeing fire-sales of local cattle impacted by foot and mouth disease, which is providing an alternative protein source to Australian cattle in feedlots, along with continued supplies of cheap Indian buffalo beef.
Additionally demand for meat in general is also being impacted by the same inflationary pressures affecting consumer demand across the globe.
Expectaions that a strong supply of export cattle will be available when dry season mustering begins in March/April, in addition to the good numbers of ex-northern Brahman type cattle still occupying paddocks further south in Qld and NSW, is also adding to downward pressure on prices.
Australia exports 58,081 head in December
Australian cattle export volumes in December totalled 58,081 head, with 36,091 of that number being exported to Indonesia, almost all from Darwin.
Vietnam imported 7168 cattle in December ahead of its annual Tet celebrations which take place this Friday, with no orders currently placed during January.
December exports were rounded off with shipments of 12,768 dairy and breeding cattle to China and 1252 cattle to the Philippines.
2022 cattle export volumes lowest in over a decade
Australian cattle exports for 2022 totalled 590,968 head.
That is the lowest annual volume of cattle exports from Australia for more than a decade, and 42 percent below the rolling five-year annual average of 1,023,609 head.
Exports to Indonesia for the year totalled 334,121 head, down by 37pc on the five-year average, while shipments to Vietnam amounted to 55,762, which was 75pc below the five-year average.
China became Australia’s second largest market for export cattle in 2022, taking 140,651 head, which as 18pc above the five-year average.
Israel was Australia’s fourth largest market for the year with imports of 27,490 cattle (41pc down on the five-year average), followed by Malaysia with 8328 (59pc below 5 yr av) and Philippines with 7059 head (53pc below 5 yr av).
Total buffalo exports for the year totalled 10,776 head, primarily to Indonesia, almost on par with the 10,827 head exported in 2021.