Australia lifts beef export forecast as ranchers capitalise on La Nina boost

SYDNEY, Dec 12 (Reuters) – Australia on Tuesday raised its forecast for beef exports by five percent as farmers are expected to send more cattle to slaughter to capitalise on strong Asian demand ahead of a La Nina weather event that will provide near perfect seasonal conditions.

Beef exports from the world’s fourth largest seller will total 1.145 million tonnes this season, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture, Resource Economics and Rural Sciences (ABARES) said, up from its previous estimate in September estimate of 1.09 million tonnes.

Much of the increased exports will flow to Japan and China, ABARES said, two countries where Australia enjoys favourable access following the completion of trade agreements in recent years.

The increased export forecast comes as ABARES lifted its forecast for beef production to 2.32 million tonnes, up nearly four percent from the September estimate of 2.244 million tonnes.

The increased production is a boost to Australian exporters, such as Cargill. They had been forced to idle processing plants over the last two years as farmers sought to rebuild herds after the end of the strongest El Nino in nearly 20 years in 2014, which drove slaughterings to a record high.

The expected arrival of a La Nina this month will likely extend the boom, bringing wet conditions across Australia’s largest cattle rearing region that will stimulate pasture growth, used to fatten livestock before being sold for slaughter.

Although a boom to cattle farmers, ABARES said the wet weather will crimp Australia’s sugar production.

ABARES said Australian sugar production this season will total 4.7 million tonnes, down two percent from its September forecast of 4.8 million tonnes.

ABARES left its forecast for milk production during the 2017-18 season unchanged at 9.25 billion litres.

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