December Market Report : S.E. Asian Beef Industry

As originally published on Beef Central

97th Edition : December 2021.

Key Points

  • Australian cattle prices continue to break all records
  • Exports to Indonesia surge out of Darwin as the monsoon approaches

Indonesia : Slaughter Steers AUD $4.80/kg live weight (Rp10,200 = $1AUD)

Slaughter cattle prices have eased very slightly to Rp49,000 per kg live weight in December although changes in the exchange rates have meant that the AUD price remains the same as last month at $4.80. The local price range starts at around Rp47,000 in Lampung and has been reported as high as Rp52,000 per kg live weight for the leanest heavy steers in Java. Importers still have large numbers of cattle which are well over their targeted days on feed which continues to present the market with overfat cattle attracting substantial discounts. I am advised that the CIF price at the end of December was around USD$4.25 which converts to close to Rp60,000 per kg live or a Rp10,000 differential per kg for finished cattle. Retail beef prices in the wet and supermarkets have not shown any significant changes over the last 5 months, so somebody has to be sustaining increasing losses in order to hold these retail rates steady.

Despite the massive prices for feeder cattle in Darwin, December saw more than 36,000 head exported to Indonesia. This surge was mainly driven by weather as the remaining feeder cattle had been stockpiled on the flood plains around Darwin during the dry season and now that the monsoon has arrived, they need to be moved off the plains or they will be flooded in until April. In addition, Ramadan begins on the 2nd of April, so importers need to start stocking up for this traditional period of high demand. While only a small number of buffalo were included in this December’s total, their 2021 total export numbers were in the order of 11,000 which is the largest number seen to date. Considering the price of buffalo is about than half that of feeder cattle it is likely that buffalo exports will set new records again in 2022.

My agents in Jakarta have once again been unable to find any Indian buffalo meat (IBM) in the suburban markets that they survey each month, but they have reported that there is product available for sale online. See the advertisement below offering 250 gram serves for Rp33,000 or the equivalent of Rp132,000 per kg which is only slightly less than wet market and supermarket fresh beef rates at Rp150k and Rp158k respectively. These high prices for IBM coincide with reports that the export prices for frozen IBM are at very low levels.

The Indonesian government has banned exports of coal from January to safeguard domestic power supplies. The export ban was imposed after coal miners failed to meet the so-called Domestic Market Obligation, under which they are obliged to supply at least 25 percent of a mine’s approved production plan at a maximum sales price of US$70 per metric ton — less than half the global benchmark price.

This ban might put a dampener on the predicted trade surplus led by the highest level of exports since 2011. The Indonesian government reports that it expects the economy to grow in the range 4.7 to 5.12% in 2022.

Indonesia appears to be faring better than other countries in Southeast Asia (see graphic below from the WHO) but all economies are still severely restricted by the pandemic with no end in sight given the arrival of the Omicron variant which is yet to spread in Asia as it has in many other parts of the world.

See notes below from the FAO African Swine Fever (ASF) update 23/12/21 to 6 January 2022 describing the spread of ASF in Indonesia although these new reports (in red) don’t appear to be reflected on the map from the same update in the Vietnamese section below.


Since the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) reported an ASF outbreak in North Sumatra Province in 2019 [reference1reference2], as of December 2021, ASF has officially confirmed its spread to 10 out of 34 provinces [reference3]. The Livestock and Animal Health Services (DG PKH), Ministry of Agriculture announced the confirmation of ASF in six regencies and one city in Western Kalimantan province [reference4reference5]. And according to media, ASF has also been suspected in North Kalimantan [reference6]; East Kalimantan [reference7], and Central Kalimantan [reference8]. On Sumatra, media reported sudden deaths of 50 wild pigs in Maua Hilia, Jorong Kayu Pasak Timur, Nagari Salareh Aia, Palembayan Sub-District, Agam District, West Sumatra province [reference9reference10], samples tested positive for ASF, quoting Head of Animal Health and Veterinary Public Health of the Agam Agriculture Service [reference11]; many pigs have died in Martanda and Tamapang Villages, Pematang Sawa District, Tanggamus Regency, Lampung Province [reference12]; and ASF have been detected in pigs on Riau Islands namely Kabil Village, Nongsa District, Batam City as one out of four blood samples tested positive by realtime PCR by the Bukittinggi Veterinary Center [reference13].”

Darwin feeder steer prices continue to defy belief as their incredible rise marches onwards with a rate of AUD$4.70 at the end of December. Even more astonishing is that rates are predicted to reach $5 per kg by mid-January!

Vietnam : Slaughter Steers AUD $5.03 / kg (VND16,300 to $1AUD)

Slaughter steer prices remain at the Dong82,000 mark once again with the AUD increase due to exchange rate fluctuations.  Last month I reported that there were no exports of cattle from Townsville to Vietnam for November, but this was incorrect as one shipment of about 2,000 head, which I am advised was made up purely of bulls, was sent during that month. No cattle were exported from Townsville during December. This is not surprising given that the rates for steers that would be suitable for the Vietnam trade were quoted at around $4.80 per kg live weight.

As seen in the WHO chart above, Vietnam seems to be suffering more from the ravages of the pandemic than most other countries in Southeast Asia. This must be having a devastating effect on personal incomes and therefore demand for premium food products like beef. In line with this increased pandemic activity the most popular method of purchasing retail beef still appears to be online.

Dong 280,000 converts to AUD$17,18 per kg.

China :  Slaughter Cattle AUD $7.98 / kg live weight (RMB 4.46 = AUD$)

Slaughter cattle prices are back up to the rates seen in October at Y35.6 per kg live weight. This price is an average of Y35.4 in Beijing and Y35.8 in Shanghai. Retail beef prices in the wet and supermarkets have also risen this month in both Beijing and Shanghai. This may well be a result of shortages caused by the September ban on Brazilian product following the reports of two cases of atypical BSE. On the 15th of December the press reported that China had lifted the ban on Brazilian beef following a ruling from the WHO that the 2 reported cases presented an insignificant risk to human or animal health. Despite the embargo, Brazil’s beef sales to China totalled nearly $3.9 billion in 2021. Brazil has 217 million head of cattle representing about 14% of the world’s cattle herd which produced close to 14% of global beef exports in 2021.

Philippines  :  Slaughter Cattle AUD $3.73 / kg (Peso 36.2 to AUD$1)

Slaughter cattle prices have remained steady with the increase in the AUD above due to currency changes. Beef prices are also steady along with most other food commodities. The recent typhoon Odette caused significant damage as it has been described as one of the worst storms seen in almost 20 years. As seen in the WHO Covid table above, the Philippines is one of the most severely affected countries in Southeast Asia. My reporter advises that vaccination rates are finally picking up speed after a very slow start.

ASF is still a major problem for pig producers with more than 900 sentinel pigs distributed by the Department of Agriculture for repopulation during December. The ASF virus is so resistant to physical cleaning and chemical disinfectants that the only way to be sure that a previously infected pig facility is free of virus is to introduce a small number of fresh pigs and see if they become infected. This incredible capacity of the ASF virus to survive in the environment is one of the main reasons that the disease continues to cause such ongoing devastation to the Asian pig industry. There are a number of companies working on vaccines so we can only hope that a useful one will be developed in the near future.

Thailand  :  Slaughter Steers AUD $4.58 / kg (Baht 24.0 to $1AUD)

Slaughter cattle prices have stabilized during December after their sharp rise in November. Fat cattle (THB110) are more expensive that feeders (THB102) for a change, possibly due to the opening of the Myanmar border at Mae Sot at the same time as the export route for fat cattle to Vietnam remains closed due to Covid 19 restrictions. The retail price of beef in the wet markets is steady although volumes are extremely low so many feedlots are operating at well below capacity. High feed prices are also causing problems for feedlot cash flows.

The Myanmar conflict continues with a recent government attack on the border near the Mae Sot livestock crossing which is a stronghold of the Karen ethnic group.

Thailand sits in the middle of the Southeast Asian field in terms of the Covid 19 impact as vaccination rates are increasing.

Still travelling – from Barbados to Scotland.

Beef cattle producers in Scotland are always trying to reduce costs while maintaining or improving production just like everyone else. On the farm where I spent 4 weeks over the christmas and new year period they have changed their breed mix to Luing x shorthorn cows joined to a mix of Limousin (for the heifers), Simmental and Charolais bulls. The weaners produced are excellent and the cows are able to conceive (98%) while still lactating. The mothers and bulls live outside all year round while the weaners are fed in a shed during the winter then finished on grass in the spring.

These figures are converted to AUD$ from their respective currencies which are changing every day so the actual prices here are corrupted slightly by constant foreign exchange fluctuations. The AUD$ figures presented below should be regarded as reliable trends rather than exact individual prices. Where possible the meat cut used for pricing in the wet and supermarket is Knuckle / Round.

0 Responses

  1. Hi Ross.

    The ban on coal exports was not ‘from January’ but ‘during January’. PLN panicked because they thought they were running out of thermal coal. The ban was lifted (eased’ is the word used) almost as quickly as it was put in place.

    With kind regards, Peter

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