CATTLE purchased in April at prices of $3.80/kg liveweight are still being loaded onto livestock vessels for Indonesia in northern ports, but increasingly the market for export feeder steers has slipped further into the $3.55 to $3.70 range, trade sources have told Beef Central this week.
Vendors with good quality steers in large volumes are asking for prices around $3.70/kg, but there are also reports of smaller consignments being sold around the $3.55-$3.65/kg range.
Prices traditionally fall at this time of year as increased numbers of export cattle become available following the completion of first round musters.
But what the availability of feeder cattle will be like this season remains a question still without a clear answer.
The large numbers of weaners, heifers and cows that were transported from northern breeding properties to restockers and lotfeeders further south over the past two years is seen by some as evidence that feeder cattle numbers will be limited across the north this year.
Rabobank’s latest state of the cattle industry report released yesterday also noted that while many Australian cattle businesses are likely to have returned to close-to-normal breeding numbers, Queensland and northern Australia remain the exception.
87,565 cattle have been exported from Australia to Indonesia in the first four months of this year – two thirds of which (55,000 head) were exported from Darwin.
Some exporters have told Beef Central they believe that at least 60pc of total export numbers to Indonesia from all ports inolved cattle drawn from Queensland.
This is possibly partly explained by NT producers pushing back against falling prices in recent months and taking advantage of the improved season across the north to hold cattle to add more weight, and also explained by the elongated wet season that has prohibited physical delivery of cattle across the north.
Indonesian demand still weak
If feeder cattle supplies are on the more limited side this year, that is balanced against a similarly limited demand situation in Indonesia.
Lacklustre economic conditions, weak consumer buying power and competition from cheap protein from frozen Indian buffalo meat, Brazilian boxed meat and local cattle still being forced onto the market with FMD and LSD are continuing to subdue demand for Australian cattle in Indonesia.
The price of Australian cattle has dropped substantially in recent months, by as much as 30 percent from a high of $5.20 pre-Christmas to $3.70 now.
The falling price of Australian cattle may trigger increased orders in coming months, but at the same time the Indonesian Government continues to telegraph its dissatisfaction with the high price of Australian cattle in recent years by continuing to highlight plans to broaden its potential supply sources of live cattle, including recent reports from Brazil and even Kenya, with news articles reporting Indonesia will soon take 700,000 cattle a year from the African nation.
Despite the headlines suggesting such trade deals have been done and are soon to get underway, people with close knowledge of the Indonesian trade contacted by Beef Central this week do not believe it will make economic sense for Indonesia to import cattle from Brazil or Kenya, particularly with Australian cattle prices now back below the 400c/kg liveweight mark.
While demand from Indonesia remains subdued, there have been ships going to other markets including Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Brunei due to the lower Indonesian demand, which is helping to keep export supply chains active across the north.
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