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Australian Beef Exports to China Rising

04 April 2013

CHINA - Australia’s beef and veal exports for March increased five per cent year-on-year, to 87,742 tonnes swt, with the Chinese market again setting a monthly record high, at 12,320 tonnes swt according to figures from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, analysts from Meat and Livestcok Australia report.

The overall result for the month, while representative of the increase in cattle slaughter and beef production so far in 2013, fell short of half-month estimates for March, most likely due to the shorter working week for Easter.

With trading conditions for chilled beef to Japan remaining very tough, accentuated by the weaker Japanese currency so far in 2013, Australian exports for March declined by three per cent year-on-year, to 24,253 tonnes swt.

For the first quarter of 2013, export volumes to Australia’s largest beef destination have slipped five per cent on last year, to 62,337 tonnes swt.

However, it should also be noted that competition from other markets is having some impact on shipments to Japan, illustrated by the massive surge in product to China, along with rising volumes to a range of markets including Korea, the Middle East and South East Asia.

China continues to exceed expectations for Australian beef almost on a monthly basis, with a record volume registered in March, at 12,320 tonnes swt, four per cent above the previous record set in February (11,866 tonnes swt).

The massive March total takes Australian exports to China for the first quarter of 2013 to 28,623 tonnes swt – placing it just ahead of Korea (28,406 tonnes swt) as Australia’s this largest beef export market. Anecdotal reports out of China indicate that the increased demand could be maintained throughout the remainder of 2013, underpinned by a combination of tight domestic supply, increased foodservice demand and improving supply chains.

While somewhat overshadowed by China, Australian beef and veal exports were also up to Korea during March, hitting 11,249 tonnes swt – 42 per cent above March 2012. For the first three months of 2013, exports to Korea have also exceeded expectations, rising 17 per cent year-on-year, to 28,406 tonnes swt.

Competition for Australian manufacturing beef in other markets, combined with the high Australian dollar, resulted in Australian March beef exports to the US declining 33 per cent year-on-year, to 18,059 tonnes swt.

Additionally, the drought-induced surge in lean manufacturing beef out of NZ has increased competition in the US imported beef markets, with more NZ beef entering the US than Australian product so far in 2013.

With the peak demand period for US lean beef nearing, also referred to as the “grilling season”, Australian volumes to the US are expected to pick up through April and May.

Other markets to register increased volumes throughout March included Indonesia (up 24 per cent year-on-year), to 3,005 tonnes swt, the EU (up 45 per cent year-on-year), to 1,489 tonnes swt and the Middle East, which increased 61 per cent on the corresponding period last year, to 4,902 tonnes swt.

Underpinned by increased slaughter and lower cattle prices, Australian beef and veal exports for the first quarter of 2013 was 223,423 tonnes swt – up seven per cent year-on-year and only 4,000 tonnes swt short of the record first quarter total set in 2007.

Driven by China, the diversion of product away from the traditional big three markets of Japan, the US and Korea continues, with a record 38 per cent of all exports going to “other” markets during the first three months of 2013. This compares to 28 per cent in 2012 and only seven per cent in 2005.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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