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AgLife: A beef about beef

Sorry to burst the beef bubble. Yes, I’m about to put a pin to the beef bubble. 

Hopefully it won’t make a really big bang as we’d all hate that.

If you were lucky enough to sell cattle at the summer weaner sales, then hats off to you. If you were buying and ended up walking away empty handed, you’ve probably done the right thing.

Thomas Elders market analyst Matt Dalgleish went through the numbers and farmers who bought steers weighing 365 kilograms will make a loss when the cattle are turned off in 10 months if they sell for much less than 400 cents a kilogram. Buying the lighter weaners at 250kg is still likely to be profitable.

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Last week the eastern young cattle indicator broke all records at 874 cents a kilogram. That puts our beef cattle at 20 percent higher than the United States, and double the prices in Argentina and Brazil, our major competitors.

We export more than half of what we produce so it’s glaringly obvious that, ‘something’s gotta give’.

At the moment, it’s the meat processors who are taking heavy losses.

Beef-industry analyst Simon Quilty thinks not all processors can ride out the beef tsunami.

“In today’s market, Australian meat processors who are trying to buy grass-fed cows and steers and sell around the world are experiencing losses of $250 to $350 per head,” he said.

“These types of losses are often part of the beef cycle, but given where cattle prices are at, they are unsustainable and if prolonged will see permanent plant closures.”

If that doesn’t worry you much, be prepared to get your knickers in a twist over this one. 

Victoria is now the only state in Australia that hasn’t allowed Pacific Island workers in to work in meat processing.

Yes, the only state. Why? Because the Andrews government is so gun shy about quarantining after the tragic covid second wave, it hasn’t been able make a decision, until now.

You can be forgiven for not noticing that Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes, who was flying under the radar on the issue, was surreptitiously promoted to Attorney-General just three days before Christmas. 

The new minister, who I admit I’ve never spoken to, is former teacher and unionist Mary-Ann Thomas. 

Whether she’s grasped the nettle, or if the anger from farmers with her government over allowing elite tennis players from countries still struck down by the pandemic into the country, it’s not clear, but late last Friday – the best time to make an announcement when you don’t want to garner too much attention – Victoria announced it had struck a deal with Tasmania for 1500 Pacific Islanders to quarantine on the Apple Isle for two weeks before crossing Bass Strait, while Tasmanians flying home from overseas would quarantine in Melbourne hotels.

All well and good in theory, but agriculture is still short 25,000 workers and this band-aid move is little more than an insulting token.

The entire January 27, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire January 27, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!