Beef exports hitting headwinds

The beef sector is concerned with tariffs and strength of the New Zealand dollar. Photo: Gregor...
The beef sector is concerned with tariffs and strength of the New Zealand dollar. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Further declines in beef prices have been predicted as the strength of the New Zealand dollar and falling United States prices weigh more heavily on exporters.

Rabobank animal proteins analyst Blake Holgate said beef prices had dropped "marginally lower" during the past quarter.

However, further downward price pressure was expected in the months ahead from increased Japanese tariffs on frozen beef imports, creating additional headwinds for Kiwi exporters, he said.

"The number of export cattle slaughtered in the season to date is down 5.9% on last season and this had helped support slaughter prices as processors compete to procure what stock is available," Mr Holgate said.

A farmers’ confidence survey by Rabobank last week identified beef and sheep farmers were most concerned  about global commodity price volatility.

Globally, Mr Holgate said the US had dominated trade during 2017 with US beef exports up  11% in volume and 15% in value on the previous year. Mr Holgate said the ongoing availability of product for export from the US, coupled with challenges in exporting from Australia and Brazil, were key drivers of increased US exports on global markets.

He said for the quarter to August, New Zealand beef prices fell by 2% in both the North and South Islands, and the reduced domestic beef supply was a key factor preventing a more drastic price drop.

A main factor impacting on New Zealand beef prices was the decline in demand for grinding beef from US importers, Mr Holgate said.

"Due to increased US domestic production, the demand for imported grinding beef in the US has decreased and this led to a downward trend in US imported beef prices for lean trimmings," he said.

Rabobank was expecting New Zealand’s cattle supply to remain limited until at least November.

That should in the short term ensure any further price-easing was not significant, but as domestic supply increased later in the year, prices were likely to face further downward pressure, Mr Holgate said.

Japan is New Zealand’s fourth-largest export market by value and sixth-largest by volume.

"The new tariffs will most significantly impact our prime beef exports, given Japan is a high-value beef market for New Zealand," Mr Holgate said.

He said Japan’s tariff rates for beef imports were recently  lifted to 50% for all countries, other than Australia, Mexico and Chile.

"These new tariffs place New Zealand at a significant disadvantage against Australia which is one of our key competitors for beef exports into Japan," Mr Holgate said.

Australia was operating on a tariff rate of 27%, and the difference in tariff levels was likely to force New Zealand beef exporters to divert product from Japan into other markets, he said.

Exports from Australia and Brazil had slowed, the latter because of  an investigation into food safety and corruption, which had created opportunities for increased US exports, up by 22%, to Japan, 33% to Hong Kong and 5% to Canada.

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