EXPORT demand for cattle to Vietnam is expected to slow significantly in coming months after a second-wave coronavirus outbreak dramatically halted beef sales during a recent national holiday.
Demand for cattle from Vietnam has surged since October last year as importers paid big money for Australian cattle in expectation of strong sales during Vietnam’s national Tet holiday, which ran from February 10-16.
Latest shipping figures show Australia exported 23,175 cattle to Vietnam in January (comprising 13,856 cattle from Townsville, 4841 from Darwin and 4478 from Darwin), pushing export volumes to Vietnam to a total of 103,125 cattle in the past four months alone.
That rate of sustained export demand had driven prices for heavy steers in Townsville to unprecedented heights of $4/kg and above in recent months.
In the past week prices for cattle shipped to Vietnam on two vessels from Townsville are understood to have been sourced at prices of $3.90-$4/kg liveweight.
Vietnam confirmed 18 new Covid-19 cases this week, taking the total number of community transmissions in the latest outbreaks to 737.
Exporters report that the outbreak has suppressed beef sales dramatically through what is usually a peak period of demand during the Tet holiday, leaving feedlots carrying larger than anticipated inventories of high-priced Australian cattle.
One export source told Beef Central that it is likely shipments to Vietnam will now ease significantly in coming weeks, perhaps until April or May when Australian cattle prices are expected to ease back with the annual increase in dry season cattle supply across northern Australia.
Meanwhile Australian cattle exports to Indonesia in January totalled 35,316 head, below the five-year January export average of around 40,000 head, as Indonesian importers and butchers continue to report significant trading losses at current pricing and foreign exchange levels.
Contracted prices for feeder cattle on ships to Indonesia from Darwin remain around the $4.15c/kg rate, with some reports suggesting a handful of sales are still occurring at 10-15c above that level.
Australian exports to China in January totalled 11,151 breeder cattle, while shipments to Israel totalled 6154 feeder cattle from Fremantle.