November beef exports slip sharply to 93,802t

Jon Condon, 09/12/2023

THERE was a sharp decline in Australia’s monthly beef exports for November, due to a variety of reasons.

Total volume reached only 93,802 tonnes, back 11,300t or 11 percent on October trade – although October recorded the highest monthly level seen since the end of the drought liquidation cycle in December 2019.

November beef processing operations were hampered somewhat by lost production time in some regions due to rain disruptions, and protected industrial action by the CPSU involving meat inspectors and on-plant vets.

A lift in COVID and flu-based absenteeism also hampered operations and lowered throughput at several sites.

Last month’s volume was about 24,000t or 34pc better than November last year, however, when a declining US grinding beef market and tough trading conditions in China slowed shipments.

For the 11 months ended November 30, Australia has now exported 975,681t of chilled and frozen beef, suggesting total annual volume by the end of this month will reach around 1.02 million tonnes.

That compares with 855,000t shipped in 2022, and 887,000t the year before that, when Australia was still in herd rebuilding mode.

Following the trend established over the past four months, the United States again featured as Australia’s largest volume beef market in November, reaching 19,539t.

That figure represented a large 8073t or 27pc decline on the previous month, due to flat consumer demand for beef in the US at present, and persistently high domestic production.

October’s volume at 27,612t was unusually large, however, reaching its highest monthly number since January 2016.

For the calendar year to date, shipments to the US have gone past 201,000t, compared with just 117,000t for the same 11 months last year, as the US production cycle starts to turn.

When US beef production surged in 2021 and 2022 due to herd reduction, demand for Australian beef fell to lows not seen in decades, but the trend is now starting to recover. At its historic peak in the 1990s to 2010s, the US frequently took +300,000t of Australian beef each year.

Numbers like that are still a long way off, but expectations are that trade will grow significantly next year.

South Korea filled second place among export customers in November, accounting for 18,117t for the month, up from 17,500t in October and 13,300t in November last year. Declining grainfed export volume out of the US has caused some of the recent growth seen in Korea, as has the end of the Government-incentivised reduction in the Korean beef herd for consumer inflation control reasons.

For the year to date, volume to Korea is at 173,466t, compared with less than 145,000t for the same period last year – a 20pc improvement.

Japan accounted for 17,857t in November, up 8pc from 16,500t in October, and 2pc higher than November last year. Shipments for the past 11 months have totalled 187,788t, down 10,000t or 5pc on last year.

China slipped to fourth place in export volume in November, with reports of difficult trading conditions and flat demand circulating. Volume last month reached 16,206t, down about 3400t or 17pc from October, but still 3000t or 22pc higher than November last year.

Year-to-date trade has reached just short of 188,000t, still up 43,000t or 29pc on last year.

Emerging customers

Among second-tier and emerging customer countries, Indonesia continues to operate strongly, taking 6634t of mostly frozen beef last month, up another 17pc from an already-high October volume, and 70pc higher than volume shipped in November last year.

In addition to being one of Australia’s largest beef offal customers, it means Indonesia has grown this year into a significant market for Australian boxed muscle cuts and trim, taking almost 65,000t over the past 11 months, compared with only 36,800t last year

The combined seven-state Middle East region took 3209t of Australian beef last month, up 9pc on November last year. Full-year to date trade sits at almost 27,000t, up 4pc on last year.

Trade into the European Union last month under existing tariff and quota measures saw just 594t shipped to EU markets, down 29pc on October. Year to date, the EU has accounted for less than 8000t.

There is still little sign of real trade growth into the United Kingdom, despite five months now passing since the new Free Trade Agreement was enacted.

Trade last month reached a scant 139 tonnes, less than half the month before, while year-to-date trade has reached just 2053t. Most of that happened prior to the FTA coming into force. So much for Australian imported beef ‘swamping’ UK farmers.

Canada continues to be a surprise packet for Australian beef exports this year, taking 2447t of beef in November, compared with just over 500t the same time last year.

Year to date, Canada has taken almost 20,000t of Australian beef, as the impact – both direct and indirect via the US – of severe drought in North America takes hold on herd numbers and domestic production across the continent.

It now ranks Canada seventh largest among Australia’s export customers for the year, after Taiwan.

While we are somewhat unfamiliar with the market’s export history, we could not find a record of higher rates of beef shipment to Canada in the past ten years.




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