AUSTRALIA, Canberra. Australian beef exports this year are significantly lower than in previous years.
According to current data from the Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) trade association, a total of 793,100 t were sold abroad between January and September; this was almost 103,000 t or 11.5% less than in the first three quarters of 2019. No reversal of the trend is expected in the short and medium term; on the contrary, the decline in exports is likely to become more pronounced. The MLA estimates that exports in 2020 will be 17% lower than in the previous year; this would correspond to around one million tons of freight weight or 1.5 mill. t of carcass weight (SG). Beef exports are also unlikely to increase in the coming year.
However, this slump comes as no surprise; it had already become apparent. In 2019, the drought and fodder shortages had caused many producers to part with their cattle. As a result, the number of animals in 2020 fell to 24.6 mill., the lowest level in more than 20 years, and will only recover slowly. Last year, slaughterings and thus the supply of beef rose to a multi-year high; now new lows can be expected.
According to the MLA, the Corona pandemic has led to a weakness in sales on the international market, in addition to the reduced export supply of beef. Thus, the beef sales to China, which had risen sharply in recent years, have come to a severe standstill this year. In the first three quarters of 2020, 155,840 t were delivered to the People's Republic, 22.4% less than in the same period last year. One of the main reasons for this was that China has withdrawn market access from important Australian suppliers. Officially, this was due to veterinary violations, but political observers blamed foreign policy tensions following Australia's call for an independent investigation of the corona outbreak in China.
Japan remained the most important customer of Australian beef exporters, with 198,940 t sold, 8.5% less than January-September 2019. In addition, exports, mostly of beef for processing, to the United States fell by 8% to 172,460 t. For South Korea a rather moderate decline of 5.7% to 114,070 t was reported. Only in Canada was Australia able to sell more beef than in the previous year; however, the increase of 3.5% and the sold quantity of 10,460 t were not particularly significant in view of the high total quantity.