take a tumble
By PETER HENDERSON
THE September 11 terrorist attacks in the US have been blamed for a huge drop-off in the numbers of live cattle exported to Egypt, WA's most valuable live cattle export market last year.
In recent months the Egyptian pound has taken a battering against the US dollar due to the impact of fewer US tourists travelling to Egypt. Tourism is Egypt's biggest industry.
In one month alone since January, the Egyptian currency devalued by up to 40pc.
Livecorp chief executive officer Kevin Shiell said the subsequent depreciation of the Egyptian pound was a major reason for reduced demand for live export cattle.
"That has caused a pretty major reduction in their spending power," he said.
He said a backlog of Australian cattle had also built up in Egypt with the market for Egyptian-grown cattle also becoming more competitive against that for imported cattle.
However, Mr Shiell said this would be a short-term situation as Egyptian growers did not have the capacity to meet sustained supply.
"There is a vessel on the way to Egypt so limited trade is continuing," he said.
The latest live cattle export figures for March indicated 21,849 head of cattle were exported to Egypt, with this number down 89pc for March 2001.
Total live cattle exports to Egypt this calendar year were down 58pc.
Mr Shiell said a mitigating factor was the recent inaugural shipment of 1300 Victorian dairy cows to Middle Eastern destinations. A dairy protocol was signed last year, which removed some prohibitive testing requirements.
But there was also strong domestic demand for dairy cattle which made it difficult to secure supply, not least the live export industry wasn't really geared up for live dairy cattle exports, Mr Shiell said.
In March the average price for each sheep exported was $67.20, which Wellard Rural Exports general manager Steve Meerwald said was unsustainable.
"The indications are that Middle Eastern clients can't pay that sort of money," he said.
The shortage of WA sheep was highlighted in the March figures, with South Australia exporting slightly more sheep than WA, which has been accounting for 60-85pc of all Australia's live sheep exports since the late 1980s.
Mr Meerwald said the company would begin operating the world's largest and newest custom-built livestock ship Becrux from June. It would carry cattle and sheep.
This will bring to three the number of new livestock ships coming into the trade in a time of volatile markets and tight supply.
Mr Meerwald said the new addition to the fleet would enhance the company's ability to trade in tougher times.
Meanwhile, Fares was taking advantage of low trading activity to send the newly commissioned Rodolfo Mata to Indonesia, where the vessel would have its cattle carrying capacity enhanced.
Fares general manager Alastair Moore said market projects were made at the time the ships were put on the drawing board while at the same time live export industry could change quickly.