FROM India’s radical bid to shut down its trade to corruption scandals in Brazil, increased production in the United States and greater competitor access to Asian markets – 2017 has been a big year on the global scene for Australian beef.
The flow-on effect for Australia from some of the international dramas that have unfolded remains unclear but exporters are calling 2017 a year of unprecedented developments.
Export volumes were down 21 per cent year-on-year as 2017 got under way, influenced by constrained supplies, currency fluctuations and diverging production trends in major importing countries.
By May, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) analysts were reporting only a 3 per cent fall in total beef exports.
Heavier average carcase weights and a gradual increase in slaughter as the year progressed saw volumes lift to be 20pc above year-on-year by August.
That figure showed the effects of record numbers on feed. Grain-fed exports in August were the highest for a month since MLA records began.
Just what space was created for Australian beef in international markets as a result of the upheavals in top-five beef exporting nations has been difficult to gauge, given the supply dynamics, and corresponding impact on end prices, that have been at play at home.
In May, India’s government created shockwaves when it attempted to impede its beef trade in the name of protecting the Hindu sacred cow.
Analysts said never before had there been a scenario where an exporter itself had sought to shut down trade.
In recent years, India’s presence in the global beef market has grown significantly and if it were to withdraw from its principal markets of Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, that would remove hundreds of thousands of tonnes from the market.
However, the point was made Indian buffalo competes more with chicken and pork than higher-end Australian beef.
The situation is still fluid with no confirmation yet as to how the Indian government will be able to implement the plan.
By October, Australian beef exports were back in line with 2016. Volumes for this month had lifted 19pc year-on-year to 86,279 tonnes shipping weight, underpinned by demand from Japan, the US and China as well as increased Australian supply.
Shipments to Japan were up 10pc year-on-year.
The expectation, according the MLA analysts, was for exports to finish the year on par with last year if an average summer season prevails.