Live exports lower for the first quarter

13 April 2017

Feeder and slaughter cattle exports in March increased 63% from the previous month, totalling almost 63,000 head , however remained well below the historical average, as highlighted in the latest edition of Livelink. For the first quarter of 2017 feeder and slaughter cattle exports were back 45% compared with 2016 levels, to 161,045 head, underpinned by lower availability of Australian cattle, high cattle prices and a range of in-market challenges. A wetter first quarter in WA and the NT also further tightened supplies, while greater numbers shifted through ports in Queensland – which, with the exception of cyclone Debbie, had a drier to average start to the year.

Exports of feeder and slaughter cattle to Vietnam and Indonesia both edged higher in March, albeit off a low base in February. Exports to Vietnam totalled 6,558 head for the month, where importer demand continues to be challenged by high cattle prices. Through the first quarter, feeder and slaughter cattle exports to Vietnam totalled 24,357 head, back significantly from 2016 first quarter levels (70,886 head).

Exports to Indonesia followed a similar downward trend for the January to March period, tracking 23% lower year-on-year, to 115,348 head, influenced by supply constraints out of Australia and the presence of Indian buffalo meat (IBM) across the market.

First quarter live sheep exports declined 16% year-on-year, heavily influenced by limited supply and near-record sheep prices. Exports to Qatar totalled 60,000 head, a 33% increase month-on-month and placing it ahead of Kuwait as the largest export destination for Australian sheep over the past year. Export wethers through WA saleyards averaged $107/head for the first quarter, up from $93/head recorded last year and comparable with the market in 2011.

Goat exports remained limited through the first quarter of 2017, as increased competition from small-stock processors for the tighter supplies continues. Goat exports to Malaysia were down considerably for three months to March, to 1,321 head. Malaysian importers are reportedly sourcing increasing numbers goats from Myanmar and Thailand due to the lower price and importing more Australian sheep as an alternative.

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