Canadian beef exports surge in first half of 2019

Ranchers have seen heavy demand for their cattle, but cull cow prices are down this year.
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Canadian beef exports and cattle slaughter numbers were up and cull prices down in the first half of the year, says a provincial livestock market analyst.

“Canadian beef exports for the January to July 2019 period are $1.841 billion, up 24 per cent by value from the same period in 2018,” said Jason Wood. “Export quantity is 253,745 tonnes, which is an increase of 14.5 per cent year over year.”

Sales to the U.S. — which account for about three-quarters of exports — were up 18 per cent. They also increased in three of the next four main export markets: Japan (up 59 per cent), Mexico (up 12.4 per cent) and China (up 207 per cent) — although China effectively stopped buying Canadian beef in June. Sales to Hong Kong fell 8.8 per cent in the first half of the year.

Meanwhile, Canadian beef imports for January to August were down 16 per cent by volume at 111,688 tonnes.

Slaughter numbers for both Western Canada and the country as a whole were up (5.9 and 5.5 per cent, respectively).

But prices for cull cows are down.

“Year to date, the Western Canada cull cow market is averaging $88.15 per cwt,” said Wood. “It is three per cent below 2018 and 19 per cent lower than the five-year average.”

The D1-2 cow price was $86.50 per cwt for the week ending Sept. 13. The cull cow market typically moves lower into the fall before seeing modest gains into December, he added.

“If the cull cow market follows the seasonal trend, then estimated prices could be in the mid-$70s in November,” he said. “However, prices may see resistance from increased competing meat supplies and weaker grind prices due to increased culling in the U.S.

“The Western Canada cull cow market continues to trade at a premium to the U.S. cull market. The Western Canada cull cow market was $6.50 per cwt over the U.S. cash cow price (in the first week of September) — about $3.50 per cwt lower than the same week a year ago.”

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