Live export cattle prices rising into unchartered territory

HEAVY steers for Vietnam are going onto ships leaving Townsville at prices of over $4/kg liveweight, as a lack of numbers, exacerbated by the return to a traditional wet season, and strong market demand push the northern cattle market into never-before-seen territory.

268,481 cattle were exported from the Port of Townsville during 2020, while Darwin exported 358,003 (see annual export figures below).

Cattle exports to Vietnam climbed to a six-year high of 297,721 head in 2020, according to just released official export data for the calendar year (further full year export data below).

With demand for cattle to supply Tet holiday festivities (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) from February 12 now in full swing, export activity has maintained a strong pace in January, with six vessels taking another 20,000 heavy cattle out of North Queensland this month.

That compares to a five year average for January cattle exports from Townsville to Vietnam of about 12,000 head.

Exporters are being forced to pay unprecedented prices to secure the cattle they need to meet the demand, which has reportedly seen cattle sourced from as far south as Tamworth in NSW to help fill orders.

In early December cattle to Vietnam from Townsville were trading around $3.80c/kg.

In Darwin the price for feeder steers is still reported to be $4/kg liveweight for cattle being loaded onto ships, with talk of $4.10 now required to complete consignments.

Compared to where prices stood in April 2020 at 260c/kg, current price levels now represent a 50 percent increase since that time.

The high prices of Australian cattle were the major reason for a significant 30 percent year on year decrease in cattle exports to Indonesia in 2020.

Indonesia imported 34,581 cattle in December, taking the final overall volume for 2020 to 474,167 head.

That compares to 683,887 cattle in 2019, and ranks 2020 as the lowest year for annual imports by Indonesia since the trade suspension year of 2011.

Looked at from another perspective, as Dr Ross Ainsworth stated, exports of almost 500,000 head to Indonesia was an encouraging result in a year that saw the price of Australian feeder cattle rise so dramatically.

Monthly export figures for December 2020:

Indonesia 34,581
Vietnam 20,010
China 14,989
Israel 9813

Annual export figures for 2020:

Indonesia 474,167
Vietnam 297,721
China 135,235
Israel 37,485
Russia 30,973
Malaysia 24,763
Philippines 20,892
Japan 14,526
Brunei 8237
Jordan 4074

Live cattle exported from Australia in 2020 was 1,048,073

Annual exports from Australian ports in 2020:

Darwin 358,003
Townsville 268,481
Portland 144,029
Fremantle 132,199
Broome 97,942

If the market was supplied by meat export not live export there could be more several abattoirs employing workers here without the cruelty of live export.