At the wheel

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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UTRECHT, Netherlands – An improving economy and a strong dollar have positioned the United States as a major influence in global beef market trends, according to Rabobank's quarterly beef report.

Prices for cattle in the US have continued at record levels on tight supplies of cattle and robust consumer demand. Rabobank analysts forecast renewed price strength and tight supplies in the first quarter of 2015.

"The US continues to be the driver in the global beef market with constrained supply and strong demand keeping prices high," said Angus Gidley-Baird, Rabobank analyst. "A recent strengthening in the US economy and dollar will support continued imports to the US however we are watching a drop in the oil price and depreciation of the Russian Ruble given Russia's status as the world's largest beef importer."

Strong international demand for beef from Brazil and New Zealand will likely carryover into 2015, according to Rabobank's regional outlook report. Brazil will see demand from Russia and China with the re-opening of its market for Brazil. Strong demand in the US for beef from New Zealand continues to support New Zealand's beef industry, Rabobank reported. New Zealand reported record farmgate prices in November. Analysts forecasted a positive outlook in New Zealand for the remainder of 2014 and into Q1 2015.

In China, retail prices for beef are expected to remain stable. Rabobank noted that beef consumption isn't strong enough to push beef prices higher despite tight supplies and growing imports.

Australia continues to report record cattle slaughter numbers; total exports for 2014 are on a record-setting pace, according to Rabobank analysts. Slaughter levels are expected to remain high, keeping prices low.

The gap between premium and ground beef markets continues to widen, Rabobank reported. Prices for prime beef will remain high in 2015, while lackluster demand and growing supplies of dairy-based beef pressure prices for ground beef.

Rabobank said the New Year will be critical for Canada, as the beef industry decides whether it starts herd rebuilding or continues to downsize the industry.

In Mexico, low availability of cattle is partially offset by increased cattle weights, according to analysts. Meanwhile, exports from Argentina are likely to remain depressed on an overvalued exchange rate that currently makes Argentinean beef more expensive compared to other countries in the region.

Finally, beef consumption remains strong in Indonesia despite high prices, Rabobank said. However, concerns remain that supplies of beef could tighten on trade developments between Australia and China, and reduced cattle herds in Australia.
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