Aussie beef exports hit 1.35 million tonnes in 2014-15

07 July 2015

Underpinned by elevated cattle slaughter, the A$ steadily weakening against the US$, and a shortfall in US beef production, the perfect storm was created for Australian beef exporters in 2014-15, with shipments hitting 1.35 million tonnes swt – 14% above last year’s previous all-time high and 35% above the five-year average.

Dominating market share was the US, where imported 90CL averaged 527¢/kg CIF for the year, up 22% on the previous year and 32% on the five-year average. For 2014/15, shipments to the US amassed to 471,242 tonnes swt – the highest on record – and while the majority was made up of frozen grassfed beef (381,272 tonnes swt), there was a surge in chilled grassfed product, increasing 72% year-on-year, to 76,282 tonnes swt.

Australian exports to Japan were also greater (9%) than the year before, at 303,519 tonnes swt, underpinned by a 24% rise in grainfed shipments – which accounted for just under half the total, at 143,686 tonnes swt.

There was also some modest growth (1% year-on-year) in the volume of beef shipped to Korea, at 156,915 tonnes swt and like Japan, exports were buoyed by a relatively substantial increase (11% year-on-year) in grainfed exports, at 37,454 tonnes swt.

The common factors between the three mentioned markets have been the lower A$/US$ exchange rate and high US cattle and beef prices, leading to a lift in demand for imported Australian beef.

While the volume of Australian beef exported to China (124,820 tonnes swt) in 2014-15 was down 22% year-on-year, it must be viewed in context with where the market has grown from, with shipments for the year 129% above the five-year average. The majority (111,698 tonnes swt) was made up by grassfed beef.

The Middle East was also a large market for Australian beef in 2014-15, where the volume was 54,653 tonnes swt, which, like China, while exports were down (13%) year-on-year, they were up significantly (43%) on the five-year average. Saudi Arabia (29,390 tonnes swt), the UAE (9,207 tonnes swt) and Jordan (4,744 tonnes swt) were the largest three markets in the region last year.

Exports to Indonesia (43,768 tonnes swt) and Taiwan (31,132 tonnes swt) were down 15% and 18% from the previous year, respectively, while those to the Philippines (29,547 tonnes swt) were up 2% year-on-year.

Australian beef exports to the EU continued to evolve, with the grainfed component  (16,545 tonnes swt) increasing 13% year-on-year and accounting for over half the total (24,037 tonnes swt) – which was 5% higher year-on-year.

It is highly unlikely export volumes in 2015-16 will reach anywhere near those of this year, simply because of the fewer cattle available in the system after an extended turn-off, however due to unwavering international demand, exports are likely to remain above the five-year average of 997,000 tonnes swt.

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