Western Australian Beef Commentary

Exports

Despite the higher number of cattle processed domestically compared to exported live, the value of live cattle exports exceeds the value of boxed beef exports due to the impact of domestic beef consumption. Despite this, overseas markets are becoming an increasingly important market for WA beef as illustrated by the significant growth in the value of WA beef exports to reach the highest value on record of $278.4 million in 2019. In 2020 there was a slight decline in the value of beef exports to $252.6 million, however this was still the 2nd highest on record and illustrated the resiliency of the trade in facing the global market shocks caused by Covid-19 (Figure 7). WA beef is seen as a high value, quality product in overseas markets which has been reflected in the increasing prices and premiums received in recent years.

The value of live cattle exports (both breeding and non-breeding cattle) from WA reached an all-time high of $412.4 million in 2016, before coming back to $292.2 million the following year. In 2020 they totalled $334.2 million which was the 2nd highest on record.

Combined, the WA beef industry exports reached a total value of $586.8 million in 2020.

The value of WA beef exports has risen from $93 million in 2010 to $253 million in 2020. Live cattle exports have increased from $251 million to $334 million.
Figure 7 The value of WA beef and live cattle exports (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)

Boxed beef exports

Quantity of beef exports

The quantity of beef exported from WA reached a record high of 57.1 million kg (carcase equivalent quantity (ceq)) in 2019 as seen in Figure 8. This was a 23% year on year increase from 46.4 million kg (ceq). In 2020 there was a 12% decline with beef exports totalling 50.4 million kg (ceq) - the 2nd highest on record. Over the course of the decade there has been a 38% increase in boxed beef exported from WA.

Nationally, beef exports peaked at 1.9 billion kg (ceq) in 2019. This was partly due to the drought experienced in Eastern Australia, leading producers to reduce cattle numbers due to limited resources, as well as strong international demand and good prices. In 2020 there was a 15% decline in beef exports to 1.6 billion kg (ceq) as producers concentrated on rebuilding their herds following wide spread rain.

WA beef exports have increased from 37 million kg in 2010 to 50 million kg in 2020. Australian beef exports were 1.4 billion kg in 2010 and 1.6 billion in 2020
Figure 8 The quantity of WA (right axis) and Australian (left axis) beef exports (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)

As mentioned earlier, the global economy has experienced a slowdown in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has led to large shutdowns in many countries with strictly enforced social distancing and quarantining which has led in many cases to the closing of the food service industry. Some industries have been very hard hit, however, most of the WA beef industry appears to have weathered the storm quite well. In April 2020 during the peak of the first wave of lockdowns, WA beef exports totalled 3.7 million kg. This was only 3% lower than April 2019, which was a very strong year, and 35% higher than April 2018 (Figure 9). From September to December 2020 there was a reduction in beef exports compared to previous years, however there was also a reduction in cattle slaughtered during this time, so this may have been a supply driven decline rather than a demand driven decline.

So far beef exports from WA appear to be largely unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic due to very strong international demand.

Monthly exports of WA beef from 2017. 2020 was a little lower than 2018 and 2019 from Sept onwards.
Figure 9 The quantity of WA beef exported by month (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)

The largest market for WA beef in volume terms is China and has been for the last two years. In 2020 China imported 12.8 million kg (ceq) of WA beef, which accounted for 25% of the total beef exported. This was down from 29% in 2019 or 16.8 million kg (ceq). This large spike in exports to China was partly due to African Swine Fever (ASF) which decimated Chinese pig populations leading to protein shortages. Pork is the most commonly consumed protein in China and due to the pork shortage they have had to make up the deficit with other proteins.

However, even without the impact of ASF there has been substantial growth in beef exports to China in recent years from 131 000 kg in 2010 to 8.4 million kg in 2018- prior to the ASF outbreak- an increase of 6297%.

The 2nd largest market was Indonesia which imported 8.6 million kg (ceq) or 17% of WA beef exports, up from 8.2 million kg in 2019. The 3rd largest market was the USA with 15% of exports.

China declined from 29% to 25%, USA fell from 2nd place to 3rd and 18% to 15%, Indonesia rose from 3rd to 2nd and 14% to 17%, Japan was steady with moving from 12% to 11%, Korea rose from 9% to 11%. The number of other markets declined from 28 to 24 but t
Figure 10 Export markets for WA beef by quantity in 2019 and 2020 (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)

Value of beef exports

As previously mentioned, the value of WA beef exports has also seen substantial growth in recent years (Figure 11). Since 2010 there has been an increase of 172% in the value of beef exports from $93.0 million to $252.6 million in 2020. However in 2020 there was a 9% year on year decline from the $278.4 million exported in 2019, but it was still the 2nd highest year on record.

As the growth in value has been greater than the growth in volume exported it indicates there has been solid increases in the prices received from international customers and a premium for quality well-finished product.

Nationally the increase has been similar with the total value of exports from Australia reaching $10.8 billion in 2019 and the highest on record before declining 11% year on year to $9.6 billion in 2020. Since 2010 there has been a 120% increase in the value of beef exported from $4.4 billion.

WA beef exports rose in value from $93 million in 2010 to $253 million in 2020. Australian beef exports rose from $4.4 billion to $9.6 billion.
Figure 11 The value of Australian (left axis) and WA (right axis) beef exports (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)

The largest market by value in 2019 was China who accounted for 33% of the value of WA beef exports or $91.9 million. China remained the largest market in 2020 however exports declined 28% to $66.6 million or 26% of exports. Over the course of the decade the value of beef exports to China has increased dramatically from a very low base of $392 000 in 2010, an increase of 16881% to 2020.

The 2nd largest market for WA beef by value in 2020 was the USA with $39.7 million or 16% of WA beef exports. Indonesia was 3rd with $30.1 million, a year on year increase of 19%.

In 2019 major markets were China 33%, USA 18%, Japan 11%, Korea 10%, Indoensia 9% and 28 pthers 19%. In 2020 China took 26%, USA 16%, Indonesia 12%, Korea 11%, Japan 11% and 24 others 24%.
Figure 12 Export markets for WA beef by value in 2019 and 2020 (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)

Live cattle exports

Live cattle exports by quantity

The number of cattle exported live from WA, for both breeding and non-breeding purposes, reached 256 000 in 2020 (Figure 13). This was a decline of 14% year on year from 299 000 in 2019 and accounted for 24% of national live cattle exports.

Australian live cattle exports reached 1.0 million head, down 20% from the 1.3 million exported the year before. 

The number of WA cattle exported live has been volatile but has fallen from 369 000 in 2010 to 256 000 in 2020. Australian live cattle exports were 875 000 in 2010 and 1.0 million in 2020.
Figure 13 The number of live cattle exported from Australia (left axis) and WA (right axis) (Based on ABS and Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) data, DPRD analysis)

In 2019 Indonesia accounted for 48.4% of the live cattle (breeding and non-breeding) exported from WA (Figure 14) with a total of 145 000 head shipped to that market. In 2020, Indonesia’s dominance of the trade declined to 32.1% of cattle exports or 82 000 head becoming the 2nd largest market just behind Vietnam.

In 2020 Vietnam was the largest market accounting for 32.4% of the cattle exported at 83 000 head, an increase of 92% year on year. On the other hand, Israel which had been the 2nd largest market in 2019 was the 3rd largest in 2020 as the number imported declined from 72 000 to 37 000 head.

In 2019 Indonesai took 48% of WA live cattle exports, Israel 24%, Vietnam 15%, China 7%, Malaysia 3% and 6 other markets took 3%. In 2020 Vietnam took 32% just overtaking Indonesia, Indonesia took 32%, Israel took 15%, Malaysia took 9%, China took 5% and
Figure 14 Export markets for live cattle exported from WA (breeding and non-breeding) by number of head (Based on DAWE data, DPIRD analysis)

Live cattle exports by value

The value of live cattle exports from both WA and Australia as a whole has been on an upwards trend over the last decade as seen in Figure 15.  The value of WA live cattle exports has increased from $251.4 million in 2010 to $334.2 million in 2020, an increase of 33%.

Nationally the trend has been similar but even more pronounced. It has been partly driven by the prolonged drought conditions experienced in the east which led producers to destock to conserve available resources, as well as the opening up of new markets and strengthening prices. The value of Australian live cattle exports has increased from $684.5 million to $1.6 billion over the last decade- an increase of 138%.

WA live cattle exports increased in value from $251 million in 2010 to $334 million in 2020. Australian live cattle exports increased in value  from $684.5 million to $1.6 billion
Figure 15 The value of live cattle exported from Australia (left axis) and WA (right axis) (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)

In 2019 the largest market for WA cattle in value terms was Indonesia who accounted for 42% or $139.2 million, however in 2020 there was a marked decline in the number of live cattle exported to Indonesia and hence the value. In 2020 Indonesia accounted for 27% of the value of live cattle exports or $90.3 million- a decline of 35%. This decline may partly be due to the down-turn in the Indonesian market driven by Covid-19 as wet market operations were restricted during strict lockdowns. It may also speak to increasing competition from India in the form of carabeef and the strengthening Australian dollar making our cattle more expensive.

Vietnam was the largest market for WA cattle in 2020 with 34% of exports or $114.3 million. This was an increase of 87% year on year and the strongest year on record with regards to Vietnam.

Israel was the 3rd largest market in 2020. The value of live cattle exported to Israel reached $53.3 million, down 31% year on year. Malaysia on the other hand experienced very strong growth increasing from $7.2 million in 2019 to $28.7 million in 2020.

In 2019 Indonesia accounted for 42% of the value of live cattle exports from WA. Israel 24%, Vietnam 19%, China 9%, Malaysia 2% and 5 others 4%. In 2020 Vietnam accounted for 34%, Indonesia 27%, Israel 16%, Malaysia 9%, China 8% and 7 others accounted fro
Figure 16 Export markets for live cattle exported from WA (breeding and non-breeding) by value (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)

As seen in the appendix, 58% of live cattle exported from WA ports were exported from southern ports (by value) in 2020, while 42% were exported from northern ports. By far the two largest ports in WA are Fremantle and Broome which accounted for 53% and 36% of the value of WA live cattle exported in 2020, respectively (Figure 17).

Cattle were shipped to three destinations from the northern ports in 2020- Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Of the live cattle exported to Indonesia, 88% were loaded out of northern ports and 12% from southern ports. 76% of cattle exported to Malaysia were loaded in the north compared to 24% from the south. Vietnam, which prefers heavier slaughter-ready cattle loaded 34% from the north with the remaining 66% coming from the south.

53% of WA live cattle exports were loaded in Fremantle by value in 2020 followed by Broome 36%, Wyndham 6%, Portland 4%, Geraldton 1% and a very small number from Darwin.
Figure 17 WA live cattle exports (value) by port of loading (Based on ABS data, DPIRD analysis)