Australian beef production lifts against a backdrop of global declines

Southern hemisphere beef-producing nations – including Australia – are continuing to  increase production volumes, despite a global trend of production decline, Rabobank  says in its recently-released Q4 Global Beef Quarterly report. 

Although, the agribusiness banking specialist says, increases seen in Australian and  Brazilian beef production have not been enough to offset the production declines in  Europe and the US. 

Rabobank says global beef production across “monitored markets” is expected to  decline one per cent year-on-year in 2023, and “we forecast that 2024 will play out in a  similar fashion”.

The report says the beef sector is seeing ongoing strong consumer demand in the US – although this may be weakening – accompanied by reduced cattle and beef supplies. But in Asia, weak demand and high inventory levels are testing the market. 

The bank expects North American cattle prices to continue to track at high levels, while southern hemisphere prices remain soft. 

Australian cattle prices dropped dramatically – down 28 per cent since June – while New  Zealand and Brazil also saw prices fall, but by smaller amounts, the report said. Cattle  prices in the US were steady, while Canadian prices rose three per cent between June and October.

Trends to watch for in 2024

Rabobank expects the ongoing slow global economic recovery will limit consumers’ expenditure and likely curb their spending on beef next year. 

The quarterly report said in 2023, many markets – particularly in Asian countries – did  not experience the growth in consumption expected as economies recovered from  Covid-19, and it was clear consumers were being much more cautious in their purchase  decisions. “We expect these conditions will continue into 2024” it said.

Indications from China are that the type of products in demand is changing, Rabobank  said, with more attention being paid to value-for-money products, and less to premium  ones, driven by consumer caution. 

“This consumer caution may be supported initially by reduced volumes of more  expensive North American beef and increased volumes of Australian and South  American beef,” the bank said. “However, when production in the US contracts to the  point where it exerts upward price pressure on global beef prices, we may see some pushback from global beef consumers. It is possible that 2024 will see margins in beef  supply chains being squeezed to manage higher prices and accommodate the consumer.”

Middle East conflict 

The Rabobank Beef Quarterly says the conflict in the Middle East is not expected to  materially impact beef trade. 

“The import volumes of Israel and the Palestinian territories make up approximately one  per cent of global beef imports,” the report said. “If the conflict extends across the  broader Middle East and North Africa region, the impact on global beef trade remains  relatively small.”

The bank estimates that the wider Middle East area accounts for eight per cent of global  beef imports, with Egypt being the largest importer, sourcing largely from Brazil (via the  Mediterranean Sea). “However, there may be indirect impacts if fuel and energy costs  rise. Furthermore, the Middle East is an important import market for poultry and  sheepmeat, and any disruption to this trade may cause a rebalancing of protein trade  around the world,” the report said.


Rabobank’s senior animal proteins analyst Angus Gidley-Baird said for the Australian  beef sector “it looks like we have reached the bottom of the market”.

Mr Gidley-Baird said the higher volumes of cattle, congested supply chains, limited  processing capacity and forecasts of poor seasonal conditions continued to weigh on the  Australian cattle market through the third quarter.

“In response, the ECYI (Eastern Young Cattle Indicator) dropped 37 per cent through  Q3,” he said. “Despite the same conditions prevailing in October, prices found a floor  and levelled out.

“We believe that the producer uncertainty that was causing prices to drop has eased  and, as we head toward summer, producers will be more certain about what stock  numbers they will run, returning some stability to the market.”

Processing numbers are expected to see some change in the coming months, Mr  Gidley-Baird said. “Abattoirs are believed to have been running strongly for the last  seven months, to the extent possible given labour constraints,” he said.

“With the holiday season approaching and some cattle still backed up in the system, it is  uncertain if plants will shut down at year end, as is normal, before adding additional  shifts in the new year, or if they use this period to get through some of the cattle that  have built up in the system.”

Either way, the bank is expecting slaughter numbers to increase in the first quarter of 2024.


Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is a part of the international Rabobank Group, the world’s leading specialist in food and agribusiness banking. Rabobank has more than 120 years’ experience providing customised banking and finance solutions to businesses involved in all aspects of food and agribusiness. Rabobank is structured as a cooperative and operates in 38 countries, servicing the needs of approximately 8.4 million clients worldwide through a network of more than 1000 offices and branches. Rabobank Australia & New Zealand Group is one of Australasia’s leading agricultural lenders and a significant provider of business and corporate banking and financial services to the region’s food and agribusiness sector. The bank has 90 branches throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Media contacts:

Denise Shaw
Head of Media Relations
Rabobank Australia & New Zealand
Phone: 02 8115 2744 or 0439 603 525

Will Banks
Media Relations Manager
Rabobank Australia
Phone: 0418 216 103