Australia’s March and first quarter beef exports soar

MOMENTUM being seen this year in slaughter activity is being carried through with dramatically higher beef exports during March, and the full first quarter.

Despite the early Easter holiday impact this year, March beef exports to all markets reached 106,573 tonnes, more than 12,700t (14pc) higher than the previous month, and 7pc higher than March last year.

In fact last month recorded the highest in-month figure for March exports since Australia’s extraordinary 2015 drought year, when an all-time March record of 123,464t was reached.

For the full first quarter (January-March) beef exports to all markets this year have reached 275,992t, up 25pc on the same period in 2023. Again, Q1 exports were the highest recorded by Australia since 2015, which is also the last year that the US topped Japan as Australia’s largest export beef customer.

Solid volume growth was seen in virtually all markets last month, with the United States again being the standout.

The US took 26,484t of Australian beef – up 5100t or 24pc on the previous month, and the biggest monthly volume seen since December’s extraordinary finish to the year when in-month volume hit 35,782t.

For the first quarter, exports to the US surged to 68,095t – a massive 79.4pc or 30,000t higher than the same period a year earlier, when the US was still heavily entrenched in herd liquidation due to drought. See Beef Centgral’s story yesterday on surging prices for imported grinding meat in the US.

Japan occupied second spot last month with beef shipments totalling 21,007t, down about 2800t or 12pc on the previous month, but about 3pc higher than March last year.

For the first quarter, Japan has taken 61,132t of chilled and frozen Australian beef, about 12,000t or 24pc higher than the same period last year.

Despite current economic difficulties, China continued to operate solidly during March, on mostly frozen Australian product, with volume reaching 16,494t, about 5pc higher than February, but about 3400t or 17pc below March last year.

First quarter volume to China has reached 46,341t – 78pc of which was in frozen form. That was down 3300t or 8pc on last year’s first quarter.

South Korean trade was steady last month at 14,946t, as the country continues to eat its way through its own domestic Hanwoo beef herd under a government policy designed to curb food inflation. That figure was down 7pc on the previous month, and 25pc lower than March last year.

The effect of the Hanoo policy was also evident in first quarter total for Korea at 40,496t, down 2900t or 7pc on last year.

In second tier and emerging markets, Indonesia hit a possible one-month record of 10,299t for March, as the annual Ramadan religious period finishes, and Eid feasting festival (10 April) draws close. The absence of 2024 live export permits until mid February also served to push March beef exports to record highs. In comparison, February exports reached only 2800t, and March last year, 7731t.

The first quarter tally for Indonesia has reached 13,437t, down 12pc on last year.