In certain parts of the world French retailer, Carrefour, is a very big player.
You only need walk into one of their bigger stores such as the one in Mall of the Emirates in Dubai to realise the huge role they play in getting fresh meat into consumers' shopping baskets.
It therefore came as something of a surprise to receive a photo last week of a medium size Carrefour China supermarket in Shanghai with no fresh food in the refrigerated displays and only a few homewares and the like in the dry-goods aisles.
As it happens, this is the same store that my correspondent visited in April this year when the meat section was full of rib-eye and sirloin steak from Cargill's Fort Morgan plant in Colorado as well as an array of local product under Chinese black label Hearts and Crafts brand.
Unfortunately, this is not a single store incident as it seems the wider Carrefour China business, majority owned by Chinese retailing giant, Suning, is suffering considerable financial pain.
Suning's 80pc stake in Carrefour China acquired in 2019 from the Carrefour Group for 4.8 billion yuan was reported at the time as heavily funded by debt.
Then according to international business commentator, Financial Times, that burden was exacerbated in 2021 when Carrefour Group exercised its option to sell its remaining 20pc to Suning.
FT claims that Suning failed to pay the full amount of this transaction which led to legal proceedings finding in favour of Carrefour adding penalties and interest to the growing debt.
While this was going on, Suning's Carrefour China stores were struggling to maintain profitability under the stringent COVID lockdown conditions.
FT claims that Suning reported 7.3 billion yuan in losses by Carrefour China in the period between acquisition and the end of 2022.
Suppliers and landlords have reportedly suffered as a consequence of these losses while Suning attempts to stem the bleeding by closing many of its stores.
It is not known to what extent Australian meat exporters through their Chinese import and distribution associates have been caught up in the Carrefour China problems.
But what this example does illustrate is how things can sometimes go pear shaped in the world of fresh food retailing, even for those who would seem to be some of the best credentialed in the business.
Carrefour Group opened its first supermarket in France in 1960, its first hypermarket in 1963 and its first store in China in 1995. It ran hard with building and opening hypermarkets in China in the early 2000s and was the leading foreign retailer there until 2008.
However, despite its early embrace of e-commerce in Europe with the launch in 2000 of its online supermarket, Ooshop, it was 2016 before it really started to push into e-commerce in China.
By then the homegrown e-commerce platforms Alibaba, Tencent and Suning.com were well placed to absorb the rapidly increasing demand for online shopping.
With sales declining, Carrefour and other foreign retailers such as Tesco from the UK, Lotte Mart from South Korea and Walmart from the US were forced to reconsider their future in China.
Some left, some formed local partnerships and Carrefour opted to concentrate on more profitable locations and found a willing buyer in Suning.
Suning obviously thought there were synergies between itself and Carrefour China's bricks and mortar but when the pandemic hit, these synergies seemed unable to be realised.
With the lockdowns came localised community buying groups who were able to have their purchases delivered by way of street-corner pop-ups.
Limitations on personal movement also seemed to favour supermarket chains consisting mainly of small, convenience type stores.
Carrefour China however was heavily positioned with large, hypermarket outlets which depended on shoppers being able to travel.
But the travel restrictions have passed. There is visible wealth on the streets, the country remains by far the world's largest EV market and supermarket carparks are becoming festooned with charging stations.
The bricks and mortar stores may well make a comeback, but it remains to be seen whether Suning has the confidence and backing of its financiers and creditors to see it through or whether the Carrefour brand will effectively disappear from China's retail landscape.
HEAT is now starting to wind back the flow of cattle from north-west and far south-west Queensland but supply from other areas and across the border is keeping a solid four to five week pipeline in front of processors.
Considerable effort is going into maintaining shifts at full capacity and in some cases, extras are being done.
This helped push the weekly kill a fortnight ago to its highest point for the year thus far at 131,000 head. Previous best was 127,000 in the last week of August and third week of September.
Despite the intense dry, there is no indication yet that a new liquidation phase has commenced.
Percentage of females in the kill in September were mostly in the 42-44pc range with just one week spiking to 47pc. October so far looks similar with the first week at 47pc while the big kill week saw the percentage fall back to 43.
This suggests the herd is somewhere between growth and liquidation phases and that seems consistent with numerous anecdotal reports of people holding out for storms to hopefully get them through to some general rain.
Meanwhile price grids saw little movement other than competitive realignment.
Across the majors, YP ox are quoted at 425-440c/kg with heavy cow at 355-360.
Increased production from rising kills is showing up in beef exports.
Projections from latest Department of Agriculture figures suggest around 108,000t for October, a monthly volume last seen in 2019.
Leading the uptake of this increased supply is the US which on projected figures may reach 30,000t for the month, a volume last seen in 2015.
Japan and Korea were described by one major trader as steady but consistent.
Similarly, the tone of the China market was downbeat but regular business continues to be written.
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