With drought-induced slaughter levels remaining high and grazing conditions slow to improve in northern Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) has revised its beef production and export outlook.
With production and exports remaining at record levels through the first quarter, MLA is now projecting an 11 percent decline in year-over-year production and a corresponding 11 percent decline in exports for 2015. This is a significant revision from its earlier projections, which called for a 14 percent drop in production and a 20 percent decline in exports this year.
MLA expects slaughter levels to remain high through the current quarter before tapering off in the second half of the year. But the fourth quarter remains a big question mark, depending on rainfall. A 9 percent drop in slaughter (to 7.5 million head) is projected in 2016, before bottoming at 7.1 million in 2017.
Australia’s cattle prices have climbed higher in recent days, up 24 percent from a year ago in Australian dollars and approaching the record levels seen earlier this year. However, prices in U.S. dollar terms are up just 4 percent from a year ago and still not back to the levels seen in 2011-2012.
Australia’s first-quarter chilled/frozen beef exports of 296,428 metric tons (mt) were up 8 percent from last year’s record pace. The U.S. took 105,140 mt, up 56 percent and Japan took 67,886 mt, up 13 percent. But exports to other major markets were lower, including Korea (34,342 mt, -3 percent) and China (27,226 mt, -27 percent). The strong U.S. dollar and limited lean supplies continue to pull more Australian beef into the U.S. and away from other markets.
Sources: MLA and Australia’s Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry