Record cattle prices dent Australian live export trade

Headshot of Adam Poulsen
Adam PoulsenCountryman
Cattle at the Port Hedland Export Depot.
Camera IconCattle at the Port Hedland Export Depot. Credit: Paul Brown/Supplied

Australia’s $xx million live cattle export industry is losing ground in South-East Asia as record prices prompt importers to seek more affordable options.

The latest figures from the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment reveal Australian live cattle exports to Vietnam in November were nearly 70 per cent below the five-year average.

Meanwhile, exports to Indonesia and China were about 49 per cent and 30 per cent below average respectively.

Thomas Elder Markets analyst Matt Dalgleish said the dwindling numbers were the result of skyrocketing domestic cattle prices coupled with low supply.

“Vietnamese demand for Aussie live cattle continues to be lacklustre as shipments from South America crowd us out,” he said.

“November saw just 6353 head transported to Vietnam from Australia; and while this was a big increase from the 2542 seen during October, it is still nearly 70 per cent short of the 19,500-odd we have seen shipped to Vietnam during November, as an average over the last five years.”

Mr Dalgleish said while the trade to Indonesia rose by nearly eight per cent in November, with 23,549 head of cattle transported, the figure was only about half of what could be expected at that time of year.

Exports from Australia to China fell by about 70 per cent in November, with a total 3000 head shipped.

But Mr Dalgleish said it was not uncommon to see reduced flows from Australia to China in November.

WA-based analyst and Agora Livestock founder Rob Kelly said Australia historically had a significant freight advantage into South-East Asia, compared with South America and other live exporting countries.

“This means we can hold our prices for a bit, but once we get to the level we’re at now, all of a sudden getting stock in from South America is not that much more expensive,” he said.

“We have already started losing demand from those (South-East Asian) countries; we’re being subbed out for cheaper origins.”

Mr Kelly said Middle Eastern markets were even quicker to lose interest in Australia due to their proximity to South America.

“You don’t need a huge price movement for us to be uncompetitive in those markets,” he said.

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