Market watch - live exports

14 February 2018


Feeder and slaughter cattle exports in January totalled just under 62,000 head, almost identical with the same period last year and the historical 10-year average. However, the live cattle export market will continue to be challenged in 2018 due to ongoing tight supplies, historically high prices and a variety of in-market challenges.

Live exports out of Darwin are typically subdued through summer months given the wet season, before the commencement of the first round muster, which normally sees exports lift through the autumn months. However, conditions compared to last year have been much more favourable for moving cattle out of the Northern Territory, supporting a lift in exports out of Darwin year-on-year.

Shipments of feeder and slaughter cattle to Indonesia were back10% year-on-year at 34,000 head. The import of Indian buffalo meat continues to challenge Australian cattle exports to the country. Current wet market prices for buffalo meat in the Greater Jakarta area range from IDR 80,000–85,000/kg, while fresh beef trades at a premium from IDR 105,000–115,000/kg. The Indonesian Bureau of Logistics has been granted an extension to import the remaining quota of Indian buffalo meat carried over from last year – an estimated 31,000 tonnes. In the coming weeks, it is anticipated that the Indonesian Bureau of Logistics will be permitted to import up to an additional 100,000 tonnes in 2018.

Breeder cattle exports to Indonesia totalled 1,800 head in January, a sharp lift compared with year-ago levels – albeit off an extremely low base. The Indonesian Government has also announced it will import 15,000 breeder cattle in the coming months. The Indonesian and Australian governments are set to discuss breeding cattle imports later this month.

Cattle exports to Vietnam in January reached 17,000 head, identical to January last year. Slaughter cattle accounted for all exports to Vietnam in January, with demand for Australian cattle supported by Vietnamese New Year festival (TET) in February. Exports to Vietnam in 2018 are forecast to be similar to that of 2017, underpinned by high Australian cattle prices and strong availability of local (regional) cattle in Vietnam.

Shipments of slaughter cattle to China totalled 3,700 head, comprising of two shipments. Most noticeably, was the first consignment of cattle from northern Australia (within the Bluetongue Zone) delivered to northern China. The cattle were shipped from Townsville to Ningbo Port. Previous slaughter cattle exports to China were sourced from southern Australia. There were no recorded breeder cattle exports to China in January, underpinned by weak demand in the dairy industry in China.


January sheep exports were 109,000 head, while back from the previous month it represents a 68% increase year-on-year. Given higher wool prices in recent months, the effect of producers holding onto Merino wethers for wool production, will likely have implications for stock available for live export.

Exports to Kuwait in January were just over 18,000 head, a 16% lift on January last year. Qatar remains the largest recipient of Australian sheep with exports totalling 50,000 head, up 19% year-on-year. Preparations for the 2022 Soccer World Cup in Qatar continues to drive demand for sheepmeat in the region.

Read the live export statistics summary for January

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