A COMBINATION of global and localised factors is creating a “very tight” global beef cattle market – with strong demand and record high prices in many regions throughout the world – according to a new Rabobank report

This is coinciding with a fundamental shift in international market dynamics, Rabobank researchers found.

In its Q2 Beef Quarterly, Rabobank said so tight was the global beef market that localised disruptions – including droughts and increases in consumer demand in individual countries or regions – are now exerting a much more “dramatic impact” on global trade.

“Given the growth in demand (for beef) and global trade, pressures created in the system now mean that what may once have been considered slightly-abnormal seasonal conditions (for example) are now causing major shifts to markets,” the report said.

Report co-author, Rabobank senior animal proteins analyst Angus Gidley-Baird said the local drivers that are fuelling high beef and cattle prices in individual countries – such as post-drought herd rebuilding in Australia and a re-opening food service sector in the US – will eventually correct and cause an adjustment in prices. 

“However, with the tight global supply situation – underpinned by Chinese demand which is expected to remain firm – we believe the global market has seen a fundamental step up,” he said.

Local drivers and not-so-local

The report said the main localised drivers around the world currently impacting the global beef market included strong demand-driven beef prices in the US, seasonal delays to the Brazilian cattle slaughter and reduced supply in Europe.

For the US, Mr Gidley-Baird said, the country’s beef sector was squarely in a demand-driven market, with April 2021 wholesale prices 18.5 percent higher than the same time in 2019 (providing a comparison prior to 2020’s COVID-driven supply disruptions and panic buying), while retail prices were 11.5 percent higher.

“This is the result of a number of factors,including renewed competition between food service and retail triggered by the reopening US economy, combined with grilling season, all-time high consumer incomes and strong exports,” he said.

For Brazil, a delay in seasonal rainfall had seen lower cattle supplies available, forcing processors to push up cattle prices and keep supply flowing, particularly given the demand from the import-hungry Chinese market. 

Across the EU, there were reduced cattle supplies – reflecting low profitability seen in the sector there last year due to the impacts of COVID.

“EU beef carcass prices have been firming since quarter four 2020, with the average EU beef carcass price currently up seven per cent on the same period last year,” Mr Gidley-Baird said.

In China meanwhile, the report said, slow growth in domestic beef production – which has not been able to keep up with the local growth in consumption triggered by the substitution of beef for pork during the outbreak of African swine fever – had led to rising beef imports in past years.

“While part of the beef consumed was a substitute for pork and will shift back when pork production recovers, we expect strong Chinese beef demand to remain as new markets have been established,” Mr Gidley-Baird said.  “This will continue to drive Chinese beef imports from the global market.”

Australia

The record low cattle supply in Australia has also been feeding into the tight global market, the report said, with successive years of drought and large livestock liquidation having resulted in the country’s lowest beef cattle herd in 30 years.

Australian young cattle prices had jumped almost 30 percent year on year in February 2020 and since risen another 20 percent to February 2021, the report noted.

Mr Gidley-Baird said the cattle price increases had been significantly driven by improved seasonal conditions in 2020 which were carrying into the current year. These had seen intense buying competition by producers looking to restock properties and generate value out of increased pasture production.

“While lower volumes and higher prices make competing in the global market more difficult, the tight market situation is working in Australia’s favour and creating less resistance to our high prices,” he said.

“We believe that current cattle prices in Australia will ease as cattle numbers increase and producer demand dissipates.  However, as the supply chain overcomes the disruption here and consumers adjust their price expectations, we believe the market will adjust and a new baseline will be established.”

Pendulum swinging

In an indication that the Australian sector might be beginning to see producer demand for cattle ease, the balance of buyers in the weaner cattle market is starting to return to normal, the report said.

“The pendulum appears to be swinging, with a more normal balance beginning to return, with producers dropping back and feeders taking a more active share of the market, seeing a greater percentage of cattle heading to feedlots,” Mr Gidley-Baird said.

“Compared with last year, when producers were the largest buyers in the ECYI (Eastern Young Cattle Indicator) weaner category for many months, the first three months of 2021 has seen them occupy on average 39 percent of the market, with (lot) feeders at 50 percent,” he said.

Producers were, however, still paying premiums – of about six percent – above the market average.

“This continues to support cattle prices,” Mr Gidley-Baird said.

Numbers tell the story

Australian cattle slaughter numbers remain very low, the report said, with the east coast cattle slaughter for April 2021 down 30 percent on the same period last year and 31 percent on the five-year average.

Beef exports also remained low, reflecting the lower production levels.  April 2021 exports – of 72,502 tonnes shipped weight (swt) – were down 22 percent on the previous year and 11 percent on the five-year average. 

Higher prices and a different product offering, with less cull cows in the system, had seen Australian exports shift focus slightly, the report said.

“The share of total Australian beef exports going to China dropped from 24 percent in 2019 to 17 percent year to date and the share going to the US declined from 20 percent to 15 percent in the same period.  Meanwhile, volumes to Japan and South Korea lifted slightly for the first four months of 2021,” Mr Gidley-Baird said.

www.rabobank.com

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COPPER's surging popularity as a critical component in 'green’ technology is behind a 62 percent increase in exports of the in-demand commodity, the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) said today.

According to the latest trade data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it is the second successive month Australian copper ore has attracted above $4.50 per kilogram. This price strength is demand driven, as green technologies are significantly more copper intensive. 

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said Australia’s March overall exports had grown by 15 percent on the previous month to reach $5.18 billion.

“Queensland’s resources sector accounts for 80 percent of the state’s total exports, so this is a great result,” Mr Macfarlane said. 

Mr Macfarlane said the latest monthly trade figures show a 12 percent jump in the value of LNG exports and 9 percent rise in the value of coal exports.

“This is great news for coal and gas companies across Queensland that produce these commodities and for the communities in which they operate and the people they employ,” he said.

“Commodity cycles will always fluctuate, but Queensland’s strength is we have a diverse and abundant base of the traditional and emerging commodities the world needs right now, and a skilled domestic workforce that’s been able to keep operating safely and consistently during the global pandemic.” 

www.qrc.org.au

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PITNEY BOWES – a global technology company that provides commerce solutions in the areas of ecommerce, shipping, mailing and financial services – has made its online parcel sending solution, SendPro Online, available in Australia.

Pitney Bowes vice president and country manager for Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Stephen Darracott, said the online shipping platform provides small businesses and e-tailers with an easier and more convenient way to send parcels.

It is also the first international launch of a dedicated shipping platform for Pitney Bowes outside of the United States.

SendPro Online is a parcel sending platform that lets the user choose a preferred carrier, print shipping labels and track packages all from their computer. It also enables integration of online stores for easy and secure parcel sending, tracking and order management.

Mr Darracott said, “Businesses continued to experience a rush of online orders during 2020 as employees worked from home. As this trend continues into 2021, it’s important to have a solution, like SendPro Online, in place that is flexible and can streamline and expedite the parcel shipping process so businesses can meet and exceed customer expectations. 

“With SendPro Online, businesses can choose from multiple carriers, factoring in cost, speed, and other factors, so they can make sure their parcels are sent with the carrier that best meets their desired outcome.”

SendPro Online simplifies parcel sending by offering two plans in Australia: One pay-as-you-go plan, where businesses can send parcels via CouriersPlease or Aramex (formerly Fastway); and a premium plan, which lets businesses bring their existing accounts and negotiated rates from CouriersPlease, Aramex, Sendle, Australia Post, and StarTrack.

SendPro offers unlimited parcel sending so there is no need for users to worry about additional subscription costs. It also brings multiple carrier accounts together in one platform, so businesses can easily compare pricing and delivery services.

SendPro also integrates online stores such as eBay, Shopify, and WooCommerce into the platform for complete order management, and it is planning to offer Amazon soon.

Mr Darracott said there were huge efficiencies from managing all parcel sending from the one place, “for easy order tracking and reconciliation, saving time and money”.

The service also automates orders and the printing shipping labels online, saving processing time and reducing errors.

“Pitney Bowes is excited to bring SendPro Online to the Australian market so that businesses can benefit from simplified parcel sending that will make a real difference to their bottom line,” he said.

www.pitneybowes.com

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THE Joint Standing Committee on Trade and Investment Growth has released its new report Pivot: Diversifying Australia’s Trade and Investment Profile, which examined how the Australian Government could support businesses to diversify Australia's trade markets and sources of foreign investment.

Committee chair, George Christensen said "now more than ever it was important that Australia takes the opportunity to pivot towards new export markets and trade and investment opportunities, to support sustainable economic growth over the long term".

"The committee has recommended that the government develop a plan for trade diversification and examine options to expand domestic investment and production. These reforms will protect Australia from the risks of having too many eggs in one basket," Mr Christensen said. 

"Diversifying the range of products and services that Australia exports, including through greater support for future-focused and innovative industries, will further ensure Australia is not overexposed to trade disruptions or shocks in any one export market."

Mr Christensen said the committee’s recommendations were also aimed at protecting Australia’s national interest and national security, particularly in sensitive and critical sectors.

The committee made 21 recommendations, which include:

  • Developing and releasing a plan for trade diversification, and continuing to create trade opportunities including in India, Vietnam and through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement;
  • Increasing industry awareness of national security and national interest risks related to trade and investment, particularly for sensitive and critical sectors;
  • Investigating new options for increasing domestic funding for universities, requiring universities to publicly disclose the receipt of funding from foreign state linked bodies or individuals, and where the veto powers in Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020 allow, considering restrictions to foreign state-linked funding to Australian universities where the funding is not considered to be in the national interest;
  • Increasing Australia’s sovereign manufacturing capacity and ensuring that Australia has adequate supplies of key resources;
  • Greater support for the ‘industries of tomorrow’;
  • A clear and consistent definition of the national interest for foreign investment;
  • Reporting on whether the leasing of the Port of Darwin to a foreign company will be subject to the Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020; and
  • Options for greater domestic investment, including through superannuation funds and consideration of a national development bank.

The full report is on the committee’s webpage.

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THE RESOURCES industry has played a critical role in keeping Queenslanders working and earning through COVID-19 and is central to the state’s economic recovery, according to the Queensland Resources Council’s (QRC) latest State of the Sector report.

QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said results from its quarterly report -- which gathered feedback from business leaders in mining, energy, minerals processing, contracting, exploration, electricity generation and oil and gas extraction between July and August this year -- proved resources had been a “life raft” for the state in terms of jobs and exports.

“More than 80 percent -- or $63 billion -- of Queensland’s exports over the past 12 months came directly from our resources sector, which is $12,000 of export sales for every man, woman and child in Queensland,” Mr Macfarlane said. 

“This is a result more than 370,000 Queensland resource sector workers can be very proud of, and we hope Queenslanders are proud of too.

“I’ll be in Townsville today and Mackay and Rockhampton this week to promote the importance of the resources sector to Queensland’s economic recovery and stability post-COVID, because it’s not something that should be taken for granted by government or the community,” he said.

“Just like any industry, resources is impacted by fluctuating commodity prices, economic conditions, changes in government regulations and shifts in community expectations, so we need to keep communicating what our industry has to offer so people can understand what a powerhouse it is for our state.

“Make no mistake, without the resources industry continuing to perform, produce and employ, Queensland is in a precarious economic position.”

Mr Macfarlane said the State of the Sector report found burdensome State Government red tape was a major headwind facing the sector.

“There are projects that have been waiting more than a decade for approval, which is frankly ridiculous and a job killer,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“The resources industry needs a more streamlined assessment process for new projects and expansion of existing projects, coupled with a streamlined, best practice regulatory framework to operate within. Business as usual post-COVID is not going to cut it."

Mr Macfarlane said despite resources being recognised as an essential activity by all levels of government, the State of the Sector survey found companies have become increasingly concerned about State Government uncertainty and regulation, with confidence falling a concerning seven points compared to the previous quarter.

“If the resources sector is to keep earning and employing, we cannot have unreasonable barriers to new investment and jobs put in place by the State Government with little or no consultation or warning,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Constant increases in taxes and charges, and changes to rules and regulations, frighten away potential long-term investors in our sector and must stop.

“The more projects we can bring to production, the more jobs and more dollars there will be for Queenslanders and for Queensland.

“To make this happen we need regulatory stability and certainty in Queensland, starting with a 10-year hold on royalties and charges to give ourselves a fighting chance of making it out the other side of COVID.”

www.qrc.org.au

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THE Australian Border Force (ABF) is developing solutions to make cross border trade simpler and paperless for Australian businesses, in line with the bilateral Australia-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement.

A trial was launched on November 23 with Singapore Customs and Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to test digital verification systems. These systems are the first to be developed using blockchain technology by experts from Australia and Singapore at the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) for inter-government document exchange.

ABF commissioner Michael Outram said the ABF looked forward to close collaboration with international partner agencies on mutual border modernisation programs. 

“The ABF welcomes the opportunity to collaborate further with Singapore to improve cross-border trade between our countries," he said. "In addition to our efforts internationally, this initiative will incorporate paperless trading and secure, digital exchange of trade information as part of the future architecture and design of an Australian Trade Single Window”.

The trial will test digital verification platforms across both the ABF-developed Intergovernmental Ledger (IGL) and IMDA’s TradeTrust for electronic trade documents. Businesses and regulators will give feedback on their experience verifying Certificates of Origin with the two systems – with the aim of reducing administration costs and increasing trade efficiency.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, as well as financial institutions in Singapore, including ANZ, will take part in the trial.

The trial supports the Australian Government’s recently announced Simplified Trade Agenda, which will reform and digitise trade compliance processes. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is also collaborating on complimentary digital initiatives with Singapore regulators to progress paperless trading for phytosanitary and sanitary certificates for food and agricultural trade.

The ABF will feed lessons learned from the trial into the Supply Chain Working Group’s Discovery Report under the National Blockchain Roadmap led by Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

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THE $211 million commitment from the Federal Government to fund increased domestic fuel storage and support Australian oil refineries is a welcome step to improving fuel security, according to the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), but the plan still fails to resolve issues facing the transport of liquid fuels to Australia and around the coast.

The plan seeks to deliver an additional 780megalitres of onshore diesel storage, along with minimum stockholding obligation for key transport fuels, however the policy will still see Australia fall well short of the International Energy Agency’s 90-day fuel stockholding obligation.

The MUA said the announcement also failed to address the nation’s complete reliance on foreign owned, operated and crewed tankers to transport oil and petroleum products to Australia and around the coast.

The union said the situation had greatly deteriorated in recent decades, with more than 90 percent of Australia’s liquid fuel needs now arriving via foreign owned and operated tankers. While 12 Australian-crewed tankers operated in the year 2000, there are no longer any in service.

MUA national secretary and International Transport Workers’ Federation president Paddy Crumlin urged the Federal Government to address the nation’s complete reliance on foreign owned, operated and crewed tankers as part of efforts to address Australia’s chronic fuel security issues.

“The Morrison Government’s initial steps to enhance domestic fuel refining and storage capacity are a good start, but genuine energy security requires action on how fuel is transported to Australia and around the coast,” Mr Crumlin said. 

“The COVID-19 heath crisis has highlighted the vulnerability of Australia’s supply chains and demonstrated how quickly a pandemic, military conflict, natural disaster, or economic shock could impact the supply of essential goods.

“Clear gaps in Australia’s sovereign self-sufficiency have been exposed, placing a clear obligation on the Federal Government to close these gaps and reinforce the cabotage system that governs shipping around our coast, along with biosecurity, immigration, and related border controls.

“The COVID-19 crisis reinforced how absolutely essential shipping is, not only to fuel security but also to maintaining other domestic supply chains that provide essential deliveries," Mr Crumlin said.

“Australia’s complete reliance on foreign owned and operated tankers has left the nation extremely vulnerable, with no guarantee these vessels would continue to supply Australia during a major crisis.

“While recent shortages of household items were inconvenient, a crisis that cut fuel supplies would force the entire economy to grind to a halt.”

The MUA met with Energy Minister Angus Taylor in July to outline this weakness in Australia’s fuel security.

“The Federal Government clearly understands that improving fuel security requires the strengthening of domestic refining capacity and a substantial increase to domestic storage, but the issue of how fuel products are transported to our island nation remains unresolved,” Mr Crumlin said. 

“If the Federal Government is serious about examining industry solutions to address Australia’s fuel security, then it needs to look at the creation of a strategic fleet of Australian owned, flagged, or crewed tankers capable of maintaining supplies of oil and refined petroleum products in the event of a crisis.

“In a report commissioned by the MUA, shipping expert John Francis found the exclusive reliance on foreign flagged tankers for crude and refined petroleum products removed any opportunity for the Commonwealth to requisition national flag tankers if needed to maintain fuel supplies during a crisis," Mr Crumlin said.

“His report, Australia’s Fuel Security – Running on Empty, concluded that the retention of a minimum number of Australian owned, managed and crewed tankers was not only justified on national security grounds, but could be achieved at a minimal cost to end users.”

Australia’s Fuel Security – Running on Empty report is available at: https://bit.ly/31cDisq

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