Strong meat prices forecast

By Country News

Australia’s sheepmeat and beef producers are set to enjoy strong prices into next year, supported by a growing global appetite for meat amid limited supply availability, according to Rabobank’s just-released Global Animal Protein Outlook 2019.

However, the productive capacity of Australia’s beef herd and sheep flock will be limited by the heavy culling of female cattle and sheep seen in 2018, with any upside dependent on improved seasonal conditions in the year ahead.

The bank’s flagship annual outlook for the animal proteins sector, titled Growth Slows Down... As Doubt Gears Up, forecasts a slowing in the pace of growth for meat production in most regions throughout the world next year — with uncertainty created by trade tensions, high feed prices and African swine fever contributing to the decline.

Global animal protein production (primarily beef, pork and poultry) is expected to expand by just over one million tonnes next year — well below the five-year average growth rate — to some 500 million tonnes.

Production growth would slow across nearly all key regions, with China predicted to see a substantial production decline, driven by the impacts of African swine fever on its pork sector, the report said.

Brazil’s livestock production, however, was forecast to continue its strong growth trajectory, while the production outlook for North America was also relatively strong.

For Australia — where sheepmeat and beef production will decline, alongside that of neighbour New Zealand — the overall restrained global animal production outlook would provide some upside on the price front, the report said.

‘‘Good global prices will continue to support local (Australian) prices for finished lambs and cattle in 2019,’’ it said.

Rabobank senior animal proteins analyst Angus Gidley-Baird said, in particular, strong global demand for sheepmeat and limited supply availability will support strong prices through next year, with New Zealand — the world’s other major supplier of sheepmeat — set to have its lowest lamb kill on record in 2019.

Meanwhile lamb production in Australia would remain restricted next year, impacted by higher sheep sales seen this year because of dry weather conditions, Mr Gidley-Baird said.

For Australia’s beef sector, the 2019 outlook said, the cattle inventory would remain low following heavy de-stocking seen between 2013 and 2016, and then again in 2018, due to dry conditions that limited the availability of feed.

And cattle numbers would remain steady at the current low numbers until conditions improved, Mr Gidley-Baird said.