HIGH cattle prices are having a significant impact on live export numbers, with end of financial year slaughter cattle numbers expected to be down by as much as 300,000 head on last year, following resistance from Middle Eastern and South East Asian markets.
According to the most recent LiveCorp live export statistics, live feeder and slaughter cattle exports totalled more than 865,000 head for the 12 months to April 2017, down 27 per cent on the previous year.
Western Australian Live Exporters Association (WALEA) chairman David Jarvie said he expected the downward trend to continue towards the end of June.
“The numbers to the Middle East will be probably halved this year and you could be down 200,000 head into South East Asia this financial year,” Mr Jarvie said.
“In South East Asia there is a major concern about the cost of livestock in the market, that’s really the major driver for reduced numbers.
“There’s been a significant reduction in the numbers going to Vietnam and Indonesia.”
The LiveCorp report found year-to-April feeder and slaughter cattle shipments to Indonesia were down 18 per cent at 159,000 head.
Mr Jarvie said the presence of Indian buffalo meat to Indonesia had played a significant role.
“There is buffalo meat coming into Indonesia from India which their government has imported in an attempt to reduce the cost of beef to consumers,” he said.
The sheep market is also experiencing a decline in live exports, with April year-to-date figures down 12pc from 2016 at about 1,790,000 head.
Mr Jarvie said he expected the sheep market to hold up reasonably well towards the end of the financial year, considering the high prices.
“There’ll be a reduction but it won’t be in the same magnitude as the cattle,” he said.
“Pricing is an issue and supply is an issue in WA.
“It’s fairly hard for processors and exporters in the market with the high prices and a shortage of supply, which is not going to resolve itself quickly, even though everyone is talking good money for wool and good money for livestock.”
Mr Jarvie said other than Bahrain, which had completely cut off sheep exports from Australia, markets had remained stable.
“The significant change is that Bahrain is no longer taking any sheep and they took 128,000 in the last financial year and they won’t take any this year,’’ he said.
“Apart from Bahrain, most of the other countries that take our sheep are still taking sheep, just probably at slightly reduced numbers.
“Kuwait is stable, Oman is relatively stable, as is Qatar, which are the three main markets in the gulf.”
Mr Jarvie said the WA live export industry was not concerned about an animal welfare review prompted by the State government.
Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan flagged the review last month, in a bid to bring WA animal welfare standards into line with national regulations.
Mr Jarvie said WA exporters already complied with high animal welfare standards.
“The livestock export industry has always been a leader in animal welfare inside Australia so it’s not something that exporters are concerned about because we’re already compliant with all of the things we need to do as far as animal welfare goes,” he said.
“The animal welfare standards that they’re talking about on a national level aren’t any different to that, so it’s not going to affect livestock exports in any way.”
The national LIVEXchange conference will be held in Perth in November and will be run by LiveCorp, the Australian Live Exporters Council and WALEA.
“It only comes to WA every four or five years so it’s a good opportunity for producers and exporters to talk about the issues of the industry and listen to some expert speakers on the issues that are confronting the industry,” Mr Jarvie said.
Registrations for LIVEXchange are now open.