Resurgent US market underpins August exports



Growth in Australian exports 2011 to 2012, relative to other suppliers. Source: Steiner Consulting.While the volume of Australia’s beef exports for August changed little from the previous month, or even the August period figures last year, it is in the destinations where big changes are being seen.

Latest monthly export data released by DAFF this week shows a pronounced move back to the traditional volume market of the US, particularly for manufacturing beef, displacing some big declines in emerging markets like Russia, and Indonesia.

Total Australian beef exports for August reached 81,257 tonnes, down 1.5 percent from 82,514t in July, and virtually unchanged from August last year.

Calendar year-to date exports have now reached 613,425t – again, only marginally ahead of the same period last year (611,603t).

But it is in the realignment with traditional beef customer countries like the US, where the real export story is emerging this year.

Australia’s exports to the US in 2011 sank to 20 year lows around 167,00t, partly due to unfavourable exchange rate; partly to the abundance of domestic US grinding beef available as the US wrestled with the first of two consecutive drought years, as beef (and even dairy) producers liquidated their herds; and partly to the general decline in beef consumption among US consumers battling tight economic conditions.

This year, things have turned around fairly dramatically for exports, however.

While the US corn belt is still gripped by drought, the A$ is a little lower (US102.4c yesterday, compared with +106c this week last year); and US herd liquidation appears to be reaching an end.

Consequently, Australia’s beef exports to the US in August reached 16,776t. That’s close to the very high July’s figure of 17,105t, and a big 20.4pc rise from 13,929t this time last year.

Calendar year to date tells a similar story. Exports January-August to the US have reached a neat 152,000t, a very significant 20pc rise from the same period last year.

While US export performance is yet to return to the heady days when the market took 350,000t of Australian grinding beef a year, the tide appears to have turned. And the US tends to be a much less price-sensitive manufacturing beef buyer than some of the alternatives, like Russia or Indonesia.

In contrast, there has been a fairly dramatic collapse in exports to Russia this year, for reasons explained in more detail in this earlier Beef Central article, "Brazil rains on Australia's parade in Russia."

August exports to the CIS (former Soviet states) reached just 3127t, a rise on July (2422t) but more than 41pc lower than the August 2011 figure of 5346t.Year to date, Russia has now taken 26,981t of Australian beef – all but 700t of which was frozen, implying manufacturing purposes – a 31pc drop from last year’s equivalent period.

In Australia’s other ‘big three’ markets – Japan and Korea – trade during August was mixed.

Japan took 28,454t for the month. That compares with 31,028t for July, and 29,904t for the month of August last year. That’s largely due to an 11pc fall in grainfed beef shipments, at 11,747t. Adverse trading conditions, including tight consumer spending, the high A$ and US competition worked against Australian grainfed beef, while grassfed exports for the month reached similar volumes to last year.

In contrast, Australian frozen grassfed beef shipments to Japan during the month were almost identical to last August, at 13,167t, supported by firm demand from the Japanese fast food and casual eatery sectors.

Year to date, trade with Japan has now reached 210,351t, down about 5pc on the same period last year.

The anticipation of possible new import protocols for US beef may have also made Japanese buyers hesitant to commit for mid to long-term contracts, impacting demand for Australian product.

Korea in August took 11,139t of Australian beef, a 16pc rise over July, but still 8.7pc short of trade in August last year. Year to date, exports to Korea have totalled 70,450t, almost 30pc down on the same period in 2011, as the US continues to encroach on Australian exports with sharply priced single-cut shortrib, much prized in the Korean market.

In other Australian beef export markets last month:

  • Shipments to Indonesia reached only 1094t, representing about one third of July’s trade of 3174t, and a similar decline from August last year, as import permit restrictions linked to the Indonesian Government’s self-sufficiency drive continue to greatly limit trade. Year to date volumes have amounted to 18,100t, down from an already low 25,100t a year earlier.
  • Total EU trade in August reached 1162t, about 15pc less than July, and a similar decline from August last year. Year to date, the EU has accounted for about 9000t, about 5.4pc up on last year.
  • Total export to the Middle East in August reached 3478t, a 57pc lift over July and 34pc better than August last year. Year to date shipments have totalled 19,700t, a drop of about 4pc.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -