Encouraging signs for the cattle industry

14 September 2002

The cattle population in Australia in 2001 was estimated at 28.8 million head, an increase of about 7% on the previous year. Estimates for 2002 are for a further increase to around 29.4 million head. Cattle slaughter for 2001 was about 7.49 million, slightly down on the previous year. Calf slaughter was about 956,000, also down slightly on 2000. 2001 was an extraordinary year with hides prices in the southern states peaking at their historically highest levels in mid-April then falling 30% by November. Most of the price hikes were the result of the lack of availability from foreign producers with the outbreaks of FMD and BSE in European cattle. This also undermined consumer confidence in eating meat in Europe. A common complaint from tanners throughout the year was that leather business was poor yet supplies of hides throughout the world were insufficient to meet demand. Since the aftermath of September 11, hide markets adjusted down further as economies worldwide slowed down. Where industry does not have the capacity to process raw hides or environmental issues are a major concern, wet-blue hides are still in favour. European markets traditionally have been the major buyer of wet-blue hides and continue to support the local manufacturing industry in lighter to medium weight hides. Dairy cows and heavier weight steers in salted condition are still the preferred items for south east Asia. * Second and fourth largest Australian beef packers, Consolidated Meat and Teys Brothers, Queensland, are to merge. The expanded group are expected to process around one million head annually, making them the second largest slaughterers in the country, behind Australian Meat Holdings who are owned by ConAgra. Source: Australian Hide, Skin & Leather Exporters' Association/ICHSLTA

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