Cheaper US Beef Seen Curbing Asian Demand For Australian Meat
Asian consumers are set to buy more US beef this year as demand shifts away from more expensive Australian supply, according to the US Meat Export Federation.
Japan, Asia’s largest beef importer, will likely be the region’s fastest-growing market for US meat this year, with imports seen rising 9 per cent, Chief Executive Officer Philip Seng said in an interview in Tokyo on Thursday. Sales to South Korea and Taiwan will also expand, he said.
"We have more supplies, and our prices are coming down," Seng said. "There is less Australian product coming into the market. As their prices come up, we are staying somewhat competitive with Australia."
Australia’s beef exports are set to drop almost 9 per cent in the year starting July 1 as herd rebuilding reduces cattle and calf slaughter, the government predicts. The country’s Eastern Young Cattle Indicator, a measure of prices at auctions in the east, surged more than 38 per cent in the past year while cattle futures in Chicago lost 10 per cent. US meat production will increase this year for the first time since 2010, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
The US was the world’s fourth-biggest beef and veal exporter last year and Australia was the second largest. Live cattle for June delivery were little changed at $1.307 a pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. After touching a record $1.7275 in November 2014, futures plunged 16 percent last year, the biggest drop since 1981.
Conditions surrounding US exporters are improving as the yen has climbed 8.4 per cent against the dollar this year, making American beef more affordable to Japanese consumers, according to Seng. Falling grain costs also help lower meat prices, Seng said. Chicago wheat futures fell to a more than five-year low this month, while corn and soybeans posted third straight annual declines in 2015.
Beef imports by Japan fell 4.7 per cent to 495,419 metric tonnes last year, according to Japanese government data, as a weak yen boosted the costs of importing. Purchases from Australia rose 3 per cent to 289,632 tonnes in 2015, as Japan cut import tariffs in line with a bilateral trade agreement.
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