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Australia’s Beef Exports Cool Slightly in April, but Remain Large

Australia’s chilled/frozen beef exports in April totaled 97,477 metric tons (mt) – up 14 percent from a year ago but down from the lofty volumes in February and March, which were each above 100,000 mt. Australia’s cattle slaughter began to slow in April after more than a year of drought-induced herd liquidation.

The United States has been Australia’s largest export market for the past three months, with April exports to the U.S. up 41 percent from a year ago to 24,845 mt. High prices for lean trimmings, a weaker Australian dollar and continued drought-induced herd liquidation helped fuel exports to the U.S. in the first four months of the year — pushing January-April exports up 43 percent to 92,054 mt — the largest since 2009.

Exports to No. 2 destination Japan (81,004 mt, -5 percent) were lower through April as U.S. beef continues to displace Australian beef in the Japanese market. China (51,195 mt, +27 percent) was Australia’s third-largest market through April, but the recently announced enforcement of China’s hormone ban (as we reported on May 2) could be a setback for Australia’s booming exports, as China currently accounts for 14 percent of Australia’s export volume.

Exports to South Korea were strong in April (12,065 mt, +26 percent) and for January through April (47,411 mt, +25 percent), as Korean customers continued to take advantage of Australia’s relatively inexpensive prices. The Middle East remains a strong growth market for Australia, with exports in April (5,875 mt, +8 percent) and January-April (20,080 mt, +5 percent) up from last year’s large volumes.

Exports to Indonesia have continued to surge compared to last year’s low levels, following Indonesia’s easing of import restrictions last fall. Exports in April were up 62 percent to 4,529 mt, while January-April exports (17,650 mt, +97 percent) nearly doubled last year’s pace. Other strong growth markets so far this year include the Philippines (10,230, +36 percent), Canada (9,929, +120 percent) and the EU (7,397, +47 percent).

At 22,705 mt, chilled beef accounted for 23 percent of Australia’s April export volume. This was up 3 percent from a year ago as growth to the U.S. offset lack of access to China (which closed to Australian chilled beef in late August of last year). The largest markets for Australian chilled beef in April were Japan (9,909 mt, steady), the U.S. (4,384 mt, +64 percent), South Korea (2,682 mt, +7 percent) and the EU (1,771 mt, +14 percent).