Exports taking greater share

Exports taking greater share of beef production?

Sales
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Statistics suggest exports are taking greater share of our beef production.

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BEEF export figures for April just released by Department of Agriculture and Water Resources are surprisingly high at 98,647 tonnes considering production lost due to Easter and Anzac Day holidays and dropping of shifts early in the month due to wet weather impact on supply.

A quick look at MLA's slaughter statistics show eastern-states average weekly kill for March was 151,000 head compared to just 125,700 for April.

That is a drop of nearly 17pc but exports fell by just 3800t, less than 4pc.

Ordinarily there is a tight relationship between slaughter levels and export tonnage.

For example, the ABS progressive slaughter figure to the end of February shows an 11.4pc rise on same period 2018 while the DAWR export figures for the same period show a 10.8pc gain in tonnage.

The slight difference between the two can be explained by average carcase weight falling during the same period as a result of higher numbers of drought affected cows in the mix.

But of course for export tonnage to remain in sync with slaughter, the other major factor called domestic utilisation must also remain in relative alignment.

If domestic utilisation falls, more product would need to be exported to balance the books and vice versa.

The obvious question therefore arising from the April export statistic is whether the high export figure has come at the expense of domestic utilisation or whether it is just some sort of statistical aberration.

If it is the former it raises further interesting questions on what is driving the change.

Increased demand in export markets may be pulling product away from our domestic market or there could be a seasonal shift in domestic beef consumption making more product available for export.

The obvious question ... is whether the high export figure has come at the expense of domestic utilisation or whether it is just some sort of statistical aberration.

What we do know is that China is continuing to take a much greater quantity of Australian beef than ever before.

March was Australia's first 20,000t month in the relatively short history of its China beef trade but somehow our exporters managed to dispatch another 20,000t in April despite the much reduced kill.

China has now swept Korea aside as our third largest beef market (by volume) with a four-month year-to-date count of 72,460t compared to 52,968t to Korea.

Not only that, China appears to be closing on the US as our second largest export customer. With the US year-to-date volume at 79,555t, there is just 7000t difference between them.

That is not to say that the US market is diminishing in any way. Gains have been recorded each month this year and the year-to-date position is 15pc ahead of 2018.

Korea likewise is showing month-on-month gains and is now 13pc ahead of 2018.

While coming off a lower base, the situation is the same for Indonesia which is up 17pc on last year.

Only Japan is in negative trend with year-to-date falling 6pc to 87,845t and that would seem to have more to do with Japanese consumers exhibiting a preference for our main competitor's product than anything else.

All up and largely due to China, global demand may well be pulling some product away from our domestic market but if so, that would have to be preferable to the situation in the 1970s when the domestic market was left to soak up the huge quantities of beef the world did not want.

Export meatworks then had retail shops on site and they churned through vast quantities of very cheap beef. Fred Keong's at Oakey was particularly popular as were the ones at Anderson's Wallangarra and Borthwick's Brisbane.

Postcard from Bucharest

MY postcard correspondent travelled to Romania over Easter and was surprised to find in the capital Bucharest a modern, clean and well run city where virtually everyone speaks English.

An eastern European country bordered by Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and the Black Sea, Romania has a very chequered history and a population impoverished after World War II by Soviet occupation, crippling foreign debt, draconian communist rule and ultimately violent revolution.

It was as recently as 1989 that the country overthrew and executed the reviled dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and subsequently began to develop ties with Western Europe and the United States.

SMALL SELECTION: Milk-fed veal was prominent in Romanian supermarkets. Packaging was a mix of vacuum-skin and modified atmosphere trays and overall quality and presentation appeared to be very good.

SMALL SELECTION: Milk-fed veal was prominent in Romanian supermarkets. Packaging was a mix of vacuum-skin and modified atmosphere trays and overall quality and presentation appeared to be very good.

Romania joined NATO in 2004 and gained full membership of the European Union in 2007.

The 2000s were a period of high economic growth which saw great improvement in living standards and nowadays Romania is regarded as a modern, developed country, basically a cleaner version of Italy minus the tourist hotspots.

In shopping centres, supermarket giant Mega Image is one of the main players but fresh meat appears to account for only a very small part of their trade.

The store visited was large by Australian standards but the entire meat section was contained in a refrigerated cabinet about the size of two glass-front drink fridges. In contrast, the selection of wine on offer was massive.

Packaging was a mix of vacuum-skin and modified atmosphere trays.

Milk-fed veal was prominent as were cuts such as thin flank, rarely seen in Australian retail displays.

Prices were reasonable.

In local currency the Romanian Leu, veal was 67.48/kg (AU$22/kg), tenderised thin flank 33.49/kg (AU$11/kg) and bone-in leg beef 24.99/kg (AU$8/kg).

As can be seen from the picture, overall quality and presentation appeared to be very good.

Cow numbers up

WITH the Monday public holiday in Queensland it fell to the early sales in NSW to provide some market signals.

Despite good rain, numbers lifted at Wagga with more than 1100 cows offered.

Prices for good heavy descriptions eased 8 cents bringing score 4s back to 224c average.

At Tamworth heavy score 4s averaged 229 while the plain end of the medium weights were shared between processors and store buyers at 150-195c/kg.

Fourteen hundred cows were expected at Inverell on Tuesday.

No change in grid rates with 4-tooth ox holding at 535 and heavy cow at 440 in southern and central Qld.

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