Live Export

One month before industry moving again

James Nason, 07/07/2011

Brooke Hartley of Road Trains Australia in Darwin has had 20 road trains standing still as a result of the ban. It will be at least one month before northern live export trade is moving again, northern agents and livestock transporters say.

Livestock agent Bernie Brosnan from Ray White Rural in Darwin said northern producers were ecstatic the ban had been lifted.

However, it was only the first step of a long road back, and it was clear that some pain still lay ahead.

“It is only going to be a trickle effect at first, so there will be people who still won’t find a place on boats for their cattle because of the restriction in numbers,” Mr Brosnan said.

Road trains still parked

Livestock transporter Brooke Hartley of Road Trains Australia in Darwin said that about 20 of the company’s 70-strong fleet of road trains had been sitting idle for the past month as a result of the ban.

“It is a huge investment going backwards,” he said.  

Mr Hartley said that while everyone was pleased to see the ban lifted, he foresaw many twists and turns ahead.

“We still don’t know what the exact regulations are required for Indonesia that the Australian people are forcing upon them.

“I just think that when it does get going it is going to be very slow.

“It will probably take them a month to get this all sorted out. We’re far from out of the woods, I can give you the tip.”

Mr Hartley said that of the estimated 12,000 cattle that were stranded in holding yards near Darwin when the June 7 ban was announced, 4500 cattle remained.

Of those that had left, some went to a small export order to the Philippines, while most returned to their original properties after exporters and property owners agreed to cancel the initial purchase deals.

Cattle prices 25-30pc down

The ban has weakened cattle prices in the north. Of the few cattle that have changed hands, all have sold at prices well below the pre-ban rates.

A small shipment to the Philippines last week confirmed the current price for live export steers at $1.50/kg, well below the $2.10 on offer before exports to Indonesia were suspended.

Mr Brosnan said floodplain restockers had come back into the market at $1.50-$1.55 for small 250kg weaners.

“Anyone who has sold cattle in the last couple of weeks has had to endure a 25-30 percent drop in price, $2.10 down to $1.50, which is obviously is a huge impact, especially when you are forecasting budgets and cash flows.

“The biggest thing is that it has been an absolute guessing game, no one is really putting a price on anything, because no one knows really what to pay.”

Breeding stock had been virtually unsaleable, Mr Brosnan said, because station owners who had not been able to get sale cattle away had to make room for those cattle as well as their weaners for this year. Buying additional breeders was the last thing on their mind.

Backing for NT Cattle Marketing Pool 

Mr Brosnan backed the Northern Territory Cattlemens Association call for the Federal Government to establish an NT Cattle Marketing Pool.

Under the plan producers would sell cattle into the pool and would receive 50pc of the port value of the stock, with the balance paid progressively as cattle from pool are sold. It would allow producers to monetise cattle destined for live export and partially mitigate cash-flow disruptions which have occurred as a result of the ban.

“I think it is a brilliant idea,” Mr Brosnan said.

“Obviously it depends who takes it up, but I think the Government as a minimum owes it to the industry.

“There are a lot of guys there who are hurting, especially the smaller private enterprise family grazier, they are certainly doing it quite tough.

“It will be this time next year before the trade is flowing along reasonably well, so there is still a lot of hurt between now and then.” 

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