With one month of 2014 having already passed, there has been little change in the key factors driving the cattle market, as severe drought conditions and nearrecord turnoff have heavily pressured cattle prices. While northern Australia has seen plenty of monsoon activity in the past five weeks, the heaviest falls have been limited to the northern most regions of the continent, especially though the NT and WA, leaving much of Queensland and northern NSW waiting relief.
Given the higher cattle throughput for the start of 2014, Australian beef and veal exports for January were easily the largest on record, with exports as at 30 January, totalling 64,642 tonnes swt – with the previous January record around 55,000 tonnes swt in both 2007 and 2013. While January is traditionally the lowest export month of the year, as processors reduce operations in the wake of tighter cattle supplies and wet season falls, 2014 has been in direct contrast. Preliminary figures for January exports show that demand from China has been maintained, while January will also be a higher month to Korea and the Middle East.
The expansion of the drought conditions throughout late 2013 and early 2014, combined with a larger lamb inventory, was also reflected in lamb throughput and exports for January, totalling 15,856 tonnes swt (as at Jan 30) – compared to the record 15,212 tonnes swt registered in the opening month of last year. Exports for January were again dominated by China, the Middle East and the US, which in the past calendar year accounted for almost two-thirds of total exports.
Overall prices were mixed this week, as the capacity for producers to finish stock to market specifications continues to get harder with every hot and dry day that passes. The EYCI this week finished Thursday at 292¢/kg cwt, while trade lambs averaged 479¢/kg cwt.