Australia’s June beef exports continue year-long struggle

Jon Condon, 05/07/2022

AUSTRALIAN beef export to all markets for the month of June have continued to flag – as they have all year – under the weight of low rates of slaughter, logistics challenges and other factors.

Volumes shipped to all markets last month reached just 79,553 tonnes. Unfortunately comparisons with the previous month, and this time last year – no longer provide much insight, because volumes have now been impacted for such a lengthy period.

Last month’s tonnage was virtually the same as April export volume, but 8pc higher than this time last year. But push back a year earlier (June 2020) and the impact of the current decline is much more apparent. Australia exported around 96,500t of beef in June 2020 – almost 17,000t, or 18pc more than last month.

The same trend is apparent in full first-half exports, covering shipments made from January 1 to June 30.

Total volume for the period this year has reached 398,475t, down 6pc on last year, but a massive 155,000t or 28pc lower than the same six-month period in 2020.

All destinations are reflecting the broader trend, with volumes well-down across North and South Asia, North America, Europe and the Middle East.

Largest and highest value export customer, Japan, last month took just over 22,500t of Australian beef, down about 12pc on the previous month, but up 7pc on June last year.

In addition to Australia’s supply challenges, large volumes of US export beef continue to push into markets like Japan and Korea, as the US industry liquidates cattle at a high rate due to drought (see earlier story).

For the first half of 2022, Japan has now taken 108,500t of Australian beef, down 3.6pc for the same period last year, and down 20pc on the same period in 2020.

South Korea maintained its position as Australia’s second largest export beef market last month, surpassing both the US and China in volume – due more to decline in those markets, rather than expansion into Korea. Korean trade last month reached just over 14,000t, up 6pc from May, and 12pc better than June last year.

Year-to-date, Korea has taken just short of 71,000t of chilled and frozen Australian beef, around 6.6pc down on last year.

China filled third place in volume rankings in June at 13,956t – just short of Korea. That’s 3pc higher than May exports, but 19pc lower than June last year, as China continues to battle against waves of COVID in major population centres like Beijing and Shanghai.

Year to date, China has taken just over 73,000t of Australian beef – almost 80pc of which was in frozen form. That’s marginally up on the same period last year, when the country also had COVID lockdowns in place for long periods. Australia is increasingly being marginalised in the China market due to cheaper product out of South America, and a sharp decline in Chinese wholesale beef prices over the past two months. The US, for the first time recently passed Australia in terms of China market share.

Given the extreme high rates of beef kill in the United States at present, it is no real surprise that Australian exports remain low. Volume last month shipped through east and west Coast US ports topped only 10,888t, marginally down on the previous month, but back 11pc on June last year. Six=month trade to June 30 reached just 58,760t, back 12pc year-on-year.

In smaller and emerging export markets, the pattern was similar.

Indonesia took 4075t of Australian beef last month, up 10pc on the previous month, but down 15pc on June last year. Trade for the past six months has reached 17,833t, down 6000t or 25pc on a year ago.

The combined seven-country Middle East region accounted for 2830t of our beef last month, up marginally on May, but 23pc higher than last year. Half-year results showed trade at 13,116t, down 11pc on the previous year.

In the absence of any working Free Trade Agreement with either the UK or the EU before the end of this year, trade into the region continues at just a trickle.

Volume into the UK market last month reached just 75t – at least a little better than the 39t shipped this time last year. Total for the year so far has been a paltry 386t.

The broader EU since BREXIT has fared little better. Total last month was 566t, down from 767t a month earlier. Total shipments into the EU since January 1 have reached just 3800t.

Back in 2018, that figure was around 8400t – all high quality chilled grain and grassfed beef.

Bring on the Free Trade Agreement discussions, or in the UK’s case, Entry-into-force.






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  1. Michael J. Vail, 06/07/2022

    Suggestion: Look to Brazil … to where they’re sending their exported beef volumes/tonnages (particularly into USA), and then, where it ends up … IMO

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