Australian beef exports end 2021 year at 36-year low


Jon Condon, Beef Central (Australia)



AUSTRALIA’S full 2021 calendar year beef exports have fallen well short of 900,000 tonnes – their lowest level in at least 36 years – as the accumulated effect of herd rebuilding after earlier continental scale drought took full effect.


The effect was intensified further by good to excellent seasonal conditions across most cattle areas of Australia, motivating beef producers to hold as many cattle as possible for rebuilding purposes.


Volumes to all markets for the 12 months to the end of December reached 887,679 tonnes, down more than 150,000t or 15pc from an already-declining corresponding period a year earlier.


At their peak during the 2018-19 years when drought-driven herd liquidation was in full swing, exports topped 1.25 million tonnes in successive years.


However the worst of the cycle is now behind us, with Meat & Livestock Australia’s most recent forecast anticipating a 173,000t rise in shipped weight export volume this year, to around 1.06 million tonnes, before a return to more normal levels of 1.14 million tonnes in 2023.


More recent forecasts will be provided in MLA’s upcoming 2022 full-year projections due to be delivered later this month.


All major and emerging export customers were impacted by Australia’s supply-side challenges last year, however trade access, through both direct and indirect barriers as well as political tensions, also played a part.


For Australian exports, Korea remained a strong, reliable market, while Japan continues to purchase the most Australian beef when measured by both volume and value.


Japan finished the year accounting for 233,818t 0f Australian chilled and frozen beef – down 36,000t from an already low level the year before, reaching its lowest volume since the Japan market liberalisation process started in the early 1990s.


Trade to the United States was also severely impacted last year, partly in response to the dramatic decline in cull-cow female slaughter due to herd rebuilding, impacting supply of manufacturing beef.


US volume last year to east and west coast ports reached just 145,263t – down 31pc...