October Market Report : S.E. Asian Beef Industry

As originally published on Beef Central

83rd Edition : October 2020.

Key Points

  • China slaughter cattle prices rise to almost AUD$8 per kg live.
  • Indonesia finally manages to raise slaughter prices.
  • Massive jump in Filipino slaughter prices­­­ as Covid rules relax.

Indonesia : Slaughter Steers AUD $4.05/kg live weight (Rp10,500 = $1AUD)

Slaughter cattle prices have finally managed to break out of their two year range from Rp39 to 41k to an indicator rate of Rp42,500 per kg live weight during October. This figure is an average from Lampung where the rate stretched from under 40k for lesser quality cattle to as high as Rp43k for the best quality lines. In Java prices have reached as high as Rp 44 and even 45,000 per kg live weight for the very best types. This slaughter price movement was essential to ensure the viability of the Indonesian feedlot sector as feeder prices in Australia shoot up to all-time highs. At the end of October Darwin feeder rates were AUD$3.90 with expectations that $4 per kg live weight was not far off.  AUD$3.90 FOB means roughly $4.90 CIF or more than Rp50,000 per kg live we landed in the feedlot. A selling price of Rp42.5k still leaves a very big gap to be filled by efficient value adding in the feedlot.

Cattle production insiders are expressing concern over the potential losses to the domestic herd as a result of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. The majority of Indonesian cattle are held by small farmers with an average of 2 head each housed in the back yard. These animals are not only part of the national beef supply chain but they represent an insurance policy and store of wealth for the farmer. In times when emergency cash is needed in a hurry the cow can be sold for cash at very short notice. If enough farmers find themselves in financial difficulties then the cow sell-off may well be significant. On the other hand, during the last economic crash in Indonesia during 1998 most farmers were actually better off as the nation drastically reduced imports resulting in sharp price rises for locally produced food stuffs.

Retail supplies of Indian buffalo meat (IBM) are once again relatively freely available with prices mostly steady at around Rp80,000 per kg.

September imports of feeders remained steady at about 40,800 holding close to the monthly average for the previous year.

Darwin feeder steer prices surged upwards during October ending the month at about $3.90 per kg live weight as supplies in the remaining stockpiles run down. Traders are predicting $4 per kg in the very near future with exporters forced to move to Townsville and Western Australia to find suitable numbers of stock. While they might have more luck finding greater numbers, they won’t find any cheap cattle as the processors and Vietnamese exporters have largely cleaned out the bulk of this year’s sale cattle. Solid premiums will need to be offered to find the required numbers over the wet season. Vietnam slaughter cattle are also attracting similar rates at the moment at around $3.80 landed Townsville and more as some very large vessels needed to be filled in a short space of time providing an attractive trading environment for producers.

This video was sourced from Indonesian social media.

I often watch draft cattle across Asia and am nearly always convinced by their body language and general behaviour that they don’t mind the act of pulling the implement whether it be a plough or a cart. This particularly clever ox obviously knows that when the farmer has filled the cart with grass that it is time to head for home. Grass cutting for cattle is a job left for the afternoon after all the other essential jobs around the farm have been completed. He will also know that when he gets there it will be time to put him back into has stall where he will be fed some of the grass collected along with some other treats like crop waste, molasses and salt etc.

Vietnam  :  Slaughter Steers AUD $4.46 / kg (VND16,600 to $1AUD)

Slaughter prices remained unchanged from the elevated rates reached in September at Dong 74,000 per kg live weight.

This indicator price is made up from an “average” range of a number of prices which include quite different rates between North and South Vietnam. Retail prices in the wet and supermarkets appear to be holding steady.

1) In the South – Steers : around 500kg priced from 71,000 to 73,000VND per kg. Bulls : around 450 kg or more priced from 76,000 VND kg per kg to 77,000 VND per kg. Heifers : around 400 kg – price 70,000 VND per kg

2) In the North : – Steers : around 550 kg priced from 74,000 to 78,000 VND per kg. Bulls : around 450kg – price is 76,000  VNĐ to 78,000 VNĐ per kg. Heifers : around 500 kg Priced from 70,000  VND per to 72,000 VNd per kg.

The slaughter cattle prices in North Vietnam have always been higher than the south since this report began recording them 7 years ago.

While the total Vietnamese feedlot capacity is about 100,000 head, the current volume on hand is only around 65%.

Import numbers for September were 18,000, similar to the previous two months but down on earlier months in the year. The well-publicised multiple shipments from Townsville during October including one of the largest cattle ships in the fleet visiting twice should ensure that the feedlot capacities are brought back to well over 70% in November.

Severe flooding in central Vietnam during October resulted in the death of a large number of livestock including cattle. The Vietnamese domestic cattle herd is relatively small so these losses will be a significant blow to local production.

China :  Slaughter Cattle AUD $7.92 / kg live weight  (RMB 4.8 = AUD$)

Slaughter prices continue to creep upwards with the AUD price pushed even further by movement in the exchange rates. My agents suggest that the rise in local prices is  due to a combination of factors including the effects of the pandemic, ASF, a reduction in the volume of imported beef and a traditional increase in beef consumption during autumn. Retail prices have increased in proportion with the rise in the live cattle rates.

Philippines  :  Slaughter Cattle AUD $6.50 / kg (Peso 34.6 to AUD$1)

Slaughter prices have risen almost 10% in local currency during October as Covid-19 movement restrictions are gradually reduced in most areas of the country and people are celebrating by going shopping and having meals with friends and family. These high prices are recorded in Mindanao. At the same time prices for most food stuffs including beef, chicken, fish, fruit and vegetables have also risen sharply. Filipinos love to have a party so I expect this trend in rising demand and prices will continue considering the large backlog of weddings and other belated celebrations that are likely to follow the relaxation of lockdown.

Thailand  :  Slaughter Steers AUD $4.73 / kg (Baht 22.2) to $1AUD)Thai prices are following the Asian trend with another rise in the slaughter price although this has not translated into a rise in fresh beef prices as yet. Feeder cattle rates are steady at Baht 115-120 or A$5.09-5.31.

The economy continues to be impacted by Covid-19 as shown in the photo below from Chris King. Bangkok streets are normally full of people and traffic especially the popular locations like Soi 11.

On dry land at last.

I arrived back in Darwin on the MV Gelbray on Friday 23rd of October and completed my quarantine one week later as my return voyage was counted as part of the 14 days. No more ships this year. Few things have been more enjoyable than experiencing the best of Australian beef (and lamb and sausages etc) after 6 months eating mainly shipboard Brazilian beef which is best used for stews or repairing the soles on your work boots.

I visited the Cavenagh Hotel in Darwin where the best steaks are served every night and had the Nolan’s Private Selection grain fed T-bone. Magnificent.

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.

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