Australian live cattle exports are forecast to reach 900,000 head in 2014, up 10pc on the estimated 820,000 head exported in 2013.
Improved market access to Indonesia will underpin the significant rise, however, MLA notes that this growth could impede the recent growth to other markets demanding similar cattle, such as Vietnam and Malaysia.
The new and re-emerging markets of Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines played an important role for northern cattle producers last year by helping to provide viable market outlets for cattle while import orders to Indonesia were curtailed by quota restrictions.
Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines typically compete for a different class of cattle to Indonesia, seeking ready-to-slaughter cattle as opposed to the feeder weight cattle favoured by Indonesia.
In the 11 months to November 30 last year (the most recent official figures currently available), Vietnam imported 56,000 cattle (up from just 3353 the previous year); Malaysia imported 45,705 (compared to 27,981 in 2012) and the Phillippines imported 19,412 (down from 27,279 in 2012).
However Indonesia has this year indicated that it wants to import 225,000 slaughter weight cattle (in addition to 525,000 feeder cattle), with plans to confine imports of slaughter-weight cattle to the major consumption periods – roughly two months before Ramadan in July/August and two months before Idul Adha in October every year.
Export sources have told Beef Central this week that exports to Vietnam in particular are unlikely to be affected by the return of growth to Indonesia, because the market is linked to supplying strong Chinese demand for beef, and has a capacity to pay prices similar to the Indonesian market. With a lack of proficient feedlots Vietnam is expected to remain a strong market for ready-to-slaughter cattle this year.
The more price sensitive markets of the Philippines and Malaysia which take both feeder and slaugther-ready cattle may however struggle to compete for Australian cattle given Indonesia’s return to growth this year.
Meat & Livestock Australia predicts that the greatest challenge for exporters in 2014 will be sourcing suitable cattle to meet demand, given the huge turnoff in 2013, poor 2012-13 branding rates and likely strong processor demand in 2014.
While Indonesia has stated plans to import 750,000 cattle in total this year, MLA believes the actual number of imports is likely to come it at around 610,000 this year, which would still represent an increase of 36pc on 2013 import levels.
MLA also predicts that shipments to Vietnam will fall back to 40,000 in 2014 given the additional competition for slaughter cattle from Indonesia,
It has forecast that live exports to Malaysia will decline in 2014 to around 30,000 head, and exports to the Philippines will remain relatively steady on 2013 numbers at 20,000 head.
Of the seven current supply chain approved countries in the Middle East and Africa, Israel is the largest market for cattle, where numbers are anticipated to ease year-on-year in 2014, to 70,000 head.
Numbers to the second largest market in the region, Jordan, are expected to ease 15pc, to 10,000 head.
Currently three countries (Bahrain, Turkey and Egypt) are temporarily closed due to market access issues, however, if there is a reopening this year, numbers to the region will be much higher.
The demand from China for replacement dairy cattle required to maintain and expand local milk production is expected to remain throughout 2014, however, Australian live cattle exports are likely to ease somewhat, down 14pc year-on-year, to 60,000 head.