WITH people dying in the streets it is almost indecent to contemplate the commercial implications of this conflict but that is the sad and harsh reality of the way the rest of the world is reacting.
Countries are carefully measuring their responses in accordance with the extent to which they are exposed or dependent on Russia for natural gas, agricultural and mineral resources, military hardware and the like as well as the self-harm effect of any sanctions that might be applied.
Meanwhile ports and agricultural processing facilities within Ukraine are shutting down and traders, shippers, brokers, insurers and all of the other players involved in getting commodities from origin to destination are scrambling to cover their positions.
It is by no means clear how this intrusion by Russia will play out but markets are reacting and analysts are speculating.
Here is a selection from some of the prominent commentators on the agricultural impact.
North American publication Successful Farming claims the war will impact the upcoming spring planting season in Ukraine.
They expect big shortages of fuel and fertiliser, a lack of finance and even farm machinery operators.
The significance of this is explained in a recent article from another US media publication, Foreign Policy.
It quotes Food and Agriculture Organisation data from 2020 that puts Ukraine's wheat exports at 18 million tonnes out of a total harvest of 24mt.
That compares to Australian wheat exports over recent years which vary from 9 to 25mt depending on season.
Egypt is the largest consumer of Ukrainian wheat at around 3mt. The European Union and China are also big customers with significant tonnages also going to Turkey, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
As the article points out, Ukraine has been known as Europe's breadbasket for centuries and any disruption to production could lead to price shocks as importing countries turn to alternative suppliers in a tightening market.
With the initial Russian invasion forcing closure of critical Ukrainian ports, wheat futures surged to trade-limit highs and traders turned to Romania and France to cover immediate loadings.
A big part of those gains were subsequently turned around on news of possible peace talks leading analysts to conclude that the immediate issue is really one of market volatility with the real test to come in around four months' time when the harvest is due to start.
If military operations are still on foot by then and the harvest compromised by infrastructure damage or closure, there is general consensus that global grain prices can be expected to increase substantially.
While that may be advantageous for growers, it has opposite implications for food prices and for the livestock feeding sector.
Sensitivity of feeder cattle prices in the US to the price of feed wheat and corn was demonstrated last Thursday.
The futures price surge in feed grains caused CME March feeder cattle to drop 3.675 cents.
Transport and shipping problems particularly in Western Australia may limit Australia's ability to act as a replacement supplier for Ukraine export markets but that would not isolate Australia from the effect of global price rises.
With record high cattle prices expected to continue for some time yet, the last thing the Australian meat processing sector needs is a substantial hike in feed grain price.
MAJOR interruption to a number of beef plants in Queensland and NSW has occurred as a consequence of widespread flooding in the south-east.
With rainfall registrations of over one metre in many places, homes and businesses have been inundated, power disrupted, roads closed and lives lost.
Comparison with 2011 and 1974 cannot be made until the flooding is over but it looks as though the Brisbane and Bremer rivers will fall short of those events. However the Mary River flood levels at Gympie have surpassed all previous big floods within living memory.
Some plants have suffered damage and have been forced to close as a consequence while others have avoided inundation but are nevertheless affected by road closures.
Getting staff to work (and home again in some instances) has been as problematic as transporting cattle.
Processors contacted gave the following indications of downtime.
JBS Dinmore lost Monday and Tuesday and were to decide on Tuesday about a possible restart on Wednesday.
Beef City was affected by flooding and not being able to get processed product out and would also make a decision on Tuesday about its return.
Nerimbera has also been affected by not being able to move product but Townsville is unaffected.
Teys Beenleigh will lose Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday kills but hopes to put a boning team together on Wednesday for product in the chillers. Hope to return before the end of the week.
No time has been lost at Biloela and Lakes Creek.
Nippon Oakey lost Monday's kill but ran the boning room and returned to normal on Tuesday.
Kilcoy Global Foods returned to full production on Tuesday having been out of action since last Friday.
Not unexpectedly there were reports of cattle in the Burnett region that were unable to be loaded but the west is fine and scheduled cattle affected by the disruption are now waiting to be accommodated.
Similarly some feedlots have cattle banked up and are keen to get them killed.
WORKS are now coming back online but it will take a little time to reschedule affected cattle and get properly back into stride.
Accordingly some operators are not yet out there in the market but carryover quotes from last week indicate 4-tooth ox at 790-835c/kg and 775c for heavy cow.
Overseas, imported 90CL in the US has now reached US315c/lb, up 4c/lb on last week and by a massive 77c/lb on last year.
On the Ukraine situation, Steiner does not expect the attack itself or the US and EU sanctions to have an immediate impact on global beef trade as Russia is no longer a major global importer.
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