BEEF exports are headed for another surge this month on the back of record domestic kills.
Data released by Meat and Livestock Australia today has forecast a bigger March for export beef than at the same time last year.
Part of the reason for the continuing surge is dry conditions across Northern Australia driving more cattle into saleyards and processing plants.
Queensland recorded its highest weekly cattle kill in 12 years last week.
Collected by MLA's National Livestock Reporting Service, the indicative Queensland adult cattle kill for the week ending March 15 hit 81,601 head - the second largest weekly kill on record (behind July 2001) and 11 per cent above the corresponding week in 2012.
Driven by higher numbers through most major processing plants, the figure for last week also confirms ongoing reports that processors have been booked solid for the early months of 2013.
Accentuating the impact of the increased flow of cattle directly to processors on price have been very large yardings at almost all Queensland markets, especially for those selling centres that traditionally draw western and northern cattle.
As reported in this week's Queensland Country Life newspaper, major highways heading south from Northern Australia are choked with cattle as worried producers from the north-west, Northern Territory, south-west and pockets of the central-west begin destocking in massive numbers as the failed wet season bites.
According to agents contacted, unless there is a late wet season deluge, which looks increasingly unlikely, the higher weekly adult cattle throughput rates experienced so far in 2013 are expected to continue into April, which will place additional pressure on cattle prices.
This week saw indicative southern Queensland direct-to-works heavy steer steady on last week, averaging 315c/kg carcase weight (cwt), while cow rates retreated 5c, to average 280c/kg cwt.
Cattle prices this week eased back for young cattle and cows, with the benchmark EYCI slipping 9.75c, to finish Thursday at 325.5c/kg cwt.
For the eastern states, the weekly adult cattle kill for the week ending March 15 was well above year ago levels, exceeding 147,000 head. With very dry and hot conditions also plaguing much of Victoria and South Australia, the total increase in slaughter for the first 10 weeks of 2013 has been more than 85,000 head.
MLA economist Tim McRae said that while the below average season and increased supplies had put downward pressure on the cattle market since late last year, the steady demand for Australian beef in several overseas markets had helped to absorb the increase assisted by the lower cattle prices.
"China is again the standout growth market, with shipments for the first two weeks of the month exceeding 5000 tonnes shipped weight, while steady volumes have been registered to the US and Korea," he said.
"Japan continues to be a tough market for Australian product, with the recent devaluation of the yen only making trading conditions more difficult."
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