Emerging markets help offset trade slump to US, Japan

Jon Condon, 08/09/2011


Australia's trade to the US and Japan has declined by 50,000t so far this year, but has been more than offset by business into Korea and emerging customer countriesSouth Korea, together with a basket of smaller emerging export markets, have helped offset further trade declines into Australia’s traditional volume offshore markets of Japan and the US during the month of August.

Overall Australian beef and veal exports for August reached 81,663 tonnes, almost identical to year-earlier figures.

Year to date (January-August) statistics show total beef exports of 611,578t, again almost the same as the 2010 YTD figure of 607,428t.

What is emerging, however, is a subtle shift from chilled to frozen in some key markets, partly due to more defensive buying patterns among consumers in a taxing global economic environment. Frozen shipments account for 72.1pc of total Australian exports so far in 2011, latest DAFF figures suggest.

August shipment data again supports the view that trade conditions into Australia's two largest export markets, Japan and the US, remain very tough, constrained by a currency that continues to hover well above parity with the US$, and listless economic conditions. Sluggish consumer demand is the result.

Exacerbated by strong competition from other markets for manufacturing beef and tight cow beef supplies, Australia’s exports to the US for August declined 21pc year-on-year, to 13,929t.

Year-to-date shipments to the US were down 23pc, slipping to 110,393t from 144,205t in 2010. Indeed, the 2010 year result was already a very low year for US exports, by historical standards.
In Japan, flat consumer demand combined with increased competition from keenly-priced US beef contributed to Australian shipments for August falling 5pc year-on-year, to 29,904t.

For the first eight months of 2011, exports to Japan contracted 7pc on the same period last year to 220,836t. That’s due to a combination of well documented demand issues, but also significant supply issues, including flooding earlier in the year and reduced Australian processing rates throughout the winter.

When combined, the loss of trade to Japan and the US this year so far in comparison with YTD 2010 amounts to almost 50,000t.

Indonesian beef trade has also slowed this year due to import permit and self-sufficiency drive issues, easing 15pc to 25,177t year to date.

One of the stand-out markets for Australian beef continues to be Korea, with exports for August increasing 14pc year-on-year, and 12pc on July, to 12,202t. While Australian exports have faced significantly higher competition in Korea through cheap US imports during 2011, our trade into the market for the first eight months was still up 20pc on 2010, to 97,069t.

The lead up to the annual Chuseok festival celebrations being held in mid-September has added momentum to recent Korean trade. There was a rise across the board in August, with chilled grassfed, chilled grainfed and frozen grassfed exports to Korea jumping 22pc, 25pc and 16pc, respectively, on August 2010. Frozen grainfed beef volumes dropped 18pc year-on-year, but increased 35pc in the eight months to August.

Average monthly exports to Korea January-August this year was 12,134t, up from 10,118t for 2010. Firm demand among Korea's beef-loving consumers in 2011 has continued to support the growth in Australian trade.

Small fish are sweet

The ‘smaller fish’ in international waters have helped offset Australia’s big downward swings in trade into Japan and the US.

Solid growth was recorded into the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, including Russia, Ukraine, Belarus), up a spectacular 66pc on August last year to 5346t. Year to date trade has reached 39,254t – almost totally made up of frozen product.

August exports were also higher to the Middle East (up 14pc to 2584t in August, and 30.8pc for the year to 20,012t), and Taiwan (up 52pc for August to 3107t).

The European Union market also continues to grow, up 48pc for August to 1225t, on the strength of the emerging high quality grainfed quota access. The total EU market for 2011 has risen to 8500t, up from 5100t last year.

Also looking encouraging is trade into Central/South America, discussed in greater detail in Beef Central’s story earlier this week (“Cattle shortage sends South American prices higher”).

Exports have more than doubled year-to-date to 8430t, up from 3367t for January-August last year. More than three quarters of the trade is chilled, and mostly made up of rump cap (Pichania) sold into Brazil and Chile, where it is much-prized. 


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