Australian beef and veal exports hit record levels in May, exceeding 100,000 tonnes (t) swt for the first time in the nation’s history.
Figures from Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) revealed that May exports reached 103,207t swt, a 19% year-on-year increase and the highest monthly performance since the previous record of 94,693t swt in November 2006.
Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) said that export levels had been boosted by high cattle slaughter numbers in the country’s eastern states as the result of drought. The latest MLA figures revealed that weekly slaughter averaged around 157,000 head last month, which is an 18% year-on-year increase and a 15% increase on the five-year average.
Queensland, which has been hit hardest by the drought, saw the biggest increases, with average weekly slaughter numbers up 23% year-on-year in May.
Figures for exports by destination over the past 12 months reveal that although Australia’s traditional beef markets have suffered recently, increasing demand for red meat in developing markets has more than compensated. In June 2012-May 2013, 30% of Australian beef exports went to markets other than the US, Japan and South Korea, compared to just 11% in 2006.
Japan remains Australia’s beef export market and exports were down 4% year-on-year in the first five months of 2013. However, May’s exports were the highest volumes recorded since July last year, suggesting some recovery in the Japanese market, which has suffered from unfavourable currency exchange rates and competition from US beef.
Beef volumes to the US were down 16% year-on-year as the result of increased beef supplies on the US market and competition for manufacturing beef exports from Asia and the Middle East.
Exports to China continued to soar in May, with shipments totalling 11,486t swt, up from just 709t swt in May 2012. MLA analysts said that shipments to China for the full year are now expected to come close to 100,000t swt.
South Korea, which has traditionally been the third-biggest beef export market, was pushed into fourth place by China in February. However, it regained third place in May, recording volumes of 12,423t swt compared to China’s 11,486t swt to China.
Further growth was experienced in the Middle East, with beef exports to the region up 122% year-on-year in the first five months of 2013. Exports to the EU were also up as the result of improved access for grain-fed beef.