CATTLE exports from Western Australia have been strong so far this year - with 163,332 head of breeder, feeder and slaughter cattle being shipped to markets around the world from January 1 to August 31.
The figure is impressive considering that Australia has the highest price in the world for cattle - topping the United States in recent weeks.
June recorded the highest number for a month of 31,662 head due to a 15,752 head consignment of feeder cattle to Indonesia from Broome.
Broome has been the standout port in WA since April with thousands of head shipped to ports in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.
Fremantle, Geraldton and Wyndham were the three other ports active in the first half of the year, while Port Hedland saw its first consignment of the season in August.
Shipments of cattle also went from Fremantle to China, Russia, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Pakistan, as well as to South-East Asia and Malaysia.
Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association chief executive officer Emma White said exports from the Broome port in 2019 "was a record year, given the high turnoff rate due to the failed wet season/ongoing dry seasonal conditions".
"For 2020, we are tracking fairly similarly to 2018 at this stage and averaging three vessels a month, mainly to Indonesia," Ms White said.
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) said in its Beef and Veal: June Quarter 2020 report that the volume of live feeder and slaughter cattle exports reached record levels in the first nine months of 2019-20, increasing by 13 per cent compared with the same period in 2018-19.
"Live exports are forecast to fall by 25pc in 2020-21 to about 900,000 head," the department said.
"This reflects tighter domestic supply and falling demand as responses to COVID-19 reduce household incomes in importing countries, such as Indonesia.
"On balance, average export prices are expected to increase slightly as the effect of tightening supplies more than offsets falling demand.
"This forecast depends on the uncertain duration and severity of COVID-19 impacts on demand.
"The Australian live cattle industry relies heavily on demand from Indonesia, its largest market.
"Prices for Australian live cattle sold to Indonesian buyers fell by about a third between mid-March and mid-April.
"This was largely a result of COVID-19 disruptions decreasing expected returns to Indonesian feedlotters.
"The Indonesian rupiah fell to its lowest level in 20 years.
"The demand outlook remains weak as a result of falling incomes and government restrictions on travel and gatherings."
DAWE said Indonesian consumers were moving from wet markets to buying imported boxed beef through supermarkets or online platforms.
"These products are often sourced from Australia," DAWE said.
"This trend has also dampened the outlook for feedlotters importing live cattle from Australia.
"The fall in live cattle exports to Indonesia in the first nine months of 2019-20 was more than offset by growth in our second most important market Vietnam - a country that has had considerable success in managing the spread of COVID-19."