AUSTRALIAN beef and veal exports enjoyed their best January on record.
And the trend is expected to continue this month given the hot and dry weather across southern Australia.
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Maintaining the momentum of the second half of last year, beef and veal exports for January increased to 55,147 tonnes shipped weight, eclipsing the previous high set in 2007.
Exports for the month were up 17 per cent year-on-year and 21 per cent on the five-year average.
Meat and Livestock Australia chief economist Tim McRae said the increase had to be put into context, as exports in the past few Januarys had been affected by flooding.
However, Mr McRae said production levels were a lot higher this year, and kill rates were only disrupted by ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald in late January.
Mr McRae said lower livestock prices were also to blame for the increased exports.
The benchmark Eastern Young Cattle Indicator slipped 22 per cent year-on-year in January, to average 316/kg cwt.
"This has made Australian product more competitive in the overseas market," Mr McRae said. According to MLA data, Australia's beef trade with Japan in January increased 1 per cent on last year, to 16,964 tonnes. Shipments were, however, 6 per cent below the five-year average, due to weak demand for chilled beef and increased competition from the US.
Exports to the US also improved by 1 per cent and 9 per cent on the five-year average, while Korea received 7790 tonnes of beef and veal - up 16 per cent year-on-year and 17 per cent above the five-year average.
Mr McRae said the strong start highlighted Korea's uncertainty around US supplies and strong demand for grass-fed product.
January shipments to China, at 4437 tonnes, increased 18-fold, while shipments to Taiwan and the Middle East increased 24 per cent and 115 per cent, year-on-year respectively, continuing the growth of last year.
Some markets received reduced volumes year-on-year including Hong Kong, Indonesia and Russia.
Mr McRae said exports for the first week of February were high.