2020 - a beef industry review

2020 year in review

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Ken Wilcock looks back at events in the beef industry in 2020.

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MAY: China imposes suspensions on four Australian meat plants due to documentation irregularities.

MAY: China imposes suspensions on four Australian meat plants due to documentation irregularities.

JANUARY

Qld grids reopen at 560c for 4-tooth ox and 460 for heavy cow. China-US Phase 1 trade deal signed signalling acceptance of HGP treated beef. AMG buys Cootamundra abattoir. Fodder pours into East Gippsland following extremely hot fires. Kangaroo Island more than half burnt out with massive stock losses. Victorian seasonal turnoff pushes earliest kill-space bookings out to end of March. Widespread rain throughout eastern states late in month. Lightweight weaners spike to 465c/kg.

FEBRUARY

China locks down city of Wuhan as coronavirus outbreak worsens. Foodservice is hit hard. Korea raises alert level but avoids lockdown. Cows reach 322c/kg in saleyards as 2019 carryover bookings are cancelled due to rain. Heavy feeders push up to 395c/kg. Grids jump to 640/560 for ox/cow but meat market retreats putting processors into red.

Beef exports to China drop by more than half.

MARCH

Rain induced supply shortage cuts JBS Dinmore to just two days. Two million TEU shipping containers idle due to impact of China movement and quarantine measures on manufacturing. Worsening economic situation spreads to US cattle futures resulting in collapse in fed-cattle prices. Disconnect widens between Australian cattle prices and market for meat. Congestion starts to ease on China docks. Grids drop to 620/540 on improved supply. Meat industry giant Geoff Tancred passes away on March 15.

APRIL

US issues shelter-in-place orders to control spread of COVID-19. Retail stores stripped bare. Foodservice plummets but US wholesale skyrockets from US$210/cwt to US$255 on retail demand. Australian panic buying of beef mince sees supermarkets competing against exporters in saleyards for cows. Grids fall to 590/510. Australia keeps coronavirus out of beef plants but US suffers big production losses due to infection and absenteeism. US processor Tyson Foods declares food supply chain is breaking. Grids 550/470.

MAY

China imposes suspensions on four Australian meat plants due to documentation irregularities. Unshipped product from suspended plants is brought back in for reworking and redirection. Grids 570/490. High wholesale prices in US assist Australian exports. Strong southern restocker enquiry for all classes of cattle in central and north-west Queensland. Southern processors look to Queensland for supply as southern saleyard rates surge above 700c (carcass weight) for ox and 600c for cow. China announces huge tariff on Australian barley. Grids rise to 600/520.

JUNE

US wholesale price retreats. US beef trade with Japan steps up in consequence of trade agreement. Grids 620/540. Beef processing in US normalises and production increases due to heavier carcass weight from backlog of cattle. Increased supply impacts demand for imported beef. NSW and Victorian restockers compete with meatworks for medium and heavyweight cows. JBS Dinmore closes for one week. Grids 630/550. Les Clyne, Winchcombe stock agent and 30-year voice of market reports on ABC dies aged 78.

JULY

Safeguard triggered under ChAFTA in late June hikes tariff from 4.8 to 12pc. Cedar Meats, JBS Brooklyn, Somerville Meats and Pacific Meats are shut down due to COVID-19 outbreaks. China invokes import testing of product for presence of virus. Grids 650/570. Live shipments out of Port Alma come to a standstill. Good rain extends from eastern Vic to south-eastern Qld. Beef exports plummet on back of low supply and lost time. China drops from 24,000t in May to 12,000t in July. Grids 640/570.

AUGUST

Vic supermarket shelves stripped bare in anticipation of lockdown announcement. Vic government imposes two thirds production limitation on abattoirs. MLA announces Australian cattle prices as highest in world. Widespread rain in southern states extends into parts of southern Qld. JBS Dinmore opts for a two-week closure. Brazil announces six states FMD-free without vaccination and OIE recognition by May 2021.

SEPTEMBER

Taiwan strengthens trade ties with US by relaxing beef and pork non-tariff barriers. Grids 630/550. China suspends John Dee Warwick over alleged chemical residue. Predicted La Nina onset for Sep/Oct fails to materialise. Dinmore commences single shift and return to full-week kills. Monthly beef exports to China reach low point for year at 10,000t while all destinations plummet to year low of 72,000t. EC Throsby buys Hilltop Meats. Livestock carrier from NZ with 43 crew and 5867 cattle lost in East China Sea near Japan. JBS Northern livestock manager Steve Groom announces December retirement. Scott Carswell to take his place. Grids 620/565.

OCTOBER

Grids 645/575. Effect of the exceptional southern season showing up in cattle with no lightweight yearlings or cows in the market. Grids 655/585. Slaughter cows at Wagga reach $2800/head. Exports to China show slight recovery to 12,000t. Ireland adopts grass-fed standard for beef. Widespread rainfall up eastern seaboard from Vic to NT gulf. Beef exports to all destinations rebound to 81,000t after September low. Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest buys back RM Williams. Grids rise further to 670/600.

NOVEMBER

Short weeks persist despite grids at 670/600. JBS Townsville closes early. Victoria removes workforce capacity restrictions on meat processors. Grids 680/615. Korean beef safeguard triggers reverting 21.3pc tariff to 30pc until Dec 31. Argentina invests in beef sector upgrade to lift exports by 33pc over next three years. Grids back to 670/600 on late run of a few extra cattle. Live export feeders reach $4.00 Darwin. Live export slaughter cattle $3.80 Townsville. Geoff Teys 50 years in industry. Guy Hands buys Consolidated Pastoral Co. Legendary auctioneer Garth Hughes dies aged 81.

DECEMBER

Drought in western Qld are as bad as 2014-15. Dry pushes enough cattle to fill remaining kill slots for the year and works start taking bookings for January restart. Grids 660/590. Saleyard rates ease for slaughter types but stores remain strong. Big fall in exports to US in November but strong gains in most Asian markets. Japan finishes year as biggest beef customer. NSW beef processor Monbeef to close for eight months due to market pressures. China suspends Meramist Caboolture plant. ABC Country Hour celebrates 75 years on air.

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