September beef exports hit 98,713t, US demand continues to lead

Jon Condon, 06/10/2023

AUSTRALIAN beef exports in September came off the three-and-a-half year high seen the previous month, but still reached 98,713 tonnes.

Rates of adult cattle slaughter have continued to climb since July, driven mostly by rapidly deteriorating seasonal conditions forcing more cattle to market.

August hit a 44-month record of more than 102,00t, with last month easing 3.6 percent from that high-point.

Illustrating the sizeable turnaround in production this year, September’s export trade was more than 28,000t or 40pc higher than this time last year, when the Australian beef herd rebuilding phase after drought was still limiting production volume.

The recent July-September export growth trend is reflected in higher rates of weekly beef slaughter, as producers under drought pressure continue to push large volumes of cattle to slaughter (see Tuesday’s weekly kill report). The past four weeks of national beef kills have averaged more than 126,000 head, easily the most productive period for the year so far.

Calendar year to the end of September, Australian beef exports have now reached 776,749 tonnes, almost 141,000t or 22pc higher than the same nine months last year.

At the current energised rate, total Australian beef exports this calendar year might finish around 950,000 tonnes, earlier trade history suggests.

US market resurgence

For the fourth month in succession, exports to the United States again headlined export results, with shipments to east and west coast US ports topping 24,430t, down 5pc from August’s exceptional result, but more than and 15,000t or 184 percent higher than September last year.

That dramatic change is due to the rapid decline in beef production in the US this year (and last year’s corresponding heavy liquidation), as the country begins its herd rebuilding phase after prolonged drought.

Heavier cow kills in Australia are also contributing to the trend, with more than 75pc of Australia’s September trade into the US made on frozen boneless (mostly trimmings).

June was the first month in at least three years where the US featured as Australia’s largest volume export customer, having placed third or fourth behind Japan, China and even Korea for long periods since 2020.

For the calendar year to the end of September, our exports to the US have totalled 163,141t, up almost 70,000t or 73pc from the same eight months last year.

The US is likely to bid Australian manufacturing beef business away from other import competitors in the months to come, as US beef production continues to slow, meat traders suggest.

Other markets

China slipped past both Japan and Korea to become Australia’s second largest customer by volume last month.

China accounted for 19,051t in September, up 11pc on August shipments, and more than 4100t or 28pc higher than this time last year.

For the calendar year to date, China has now taken 151,910t of Australian beef – mostly in frozen form – almost 35,000t or 30pc more than last year.

Part of the reason for this year’s jump was the impact from Brazil’s earlier temporary suspension in trade into China after the detection of an atypical case of BSE in Brazil in March. Australian beef was used to partially fill the void, in the absence of much larger Brazilian shipments until May.

South Korea edged past Japan in beef trade volume again in September, accounting for 16,463t, down a little on the previous month, but about 2800t or 21pc higher than September last year.

Calendar year to date, Korean volume has reached 137,847t, 16pc higher than last year, as available Australian production volume has grown.

Japan was Australia’s fourth largest offshore beef customer behind China, Korea and the US last month, taking 16,276t down marginally on the previous month but 3pc higher than September last year. For the first nine months of trade in 2023, volume to Japan has reached 153,368t, down 7pc on last year. Reports continue to circulate of large quantities of beef in cold storage inventory in Japan.

Emerging markets

Among smaller and emerging markets, trade into Indonesia continued strongly last month, accounting for 6055t of Australian beef. While that was well down on the extraordinary figure of 7836t the previous month, it was close to double the volume seen this time last year.

Nine-month trade to Indonesia has now reached 52,076t – more than 22,000t or 76pc higher than this nine-month period last year. Australia has not exported more boxed beef to Indonesia, year-to-date, since 2015.





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