23 April 2015
Eliza Rogers/Isobel Roe
North Queensland’s Townsville Port is continuing to crack its records for live cattle exports, but there is concern supply will struggle to keep up.
The port exported 207,000 head of cattle from July to the end of last week, which is already 6,000 more than the previous record-breaking financial year.
And manager Claudia Brumme-Smith expects the number could climb to 260,000 head by late June.
She said extra permits from Indonesia, which accounts for about 60 per cent of the exports, and faster loading times at the port, had led to the record shipments.
“I think what is exciting about it is we’ve done it with ease. Together with the cattle logistics side, we’ve really started to set up a system that is working and any increases we can handle,” she said.
Interest from China is expected to fuel the trade boom even further.
But Charters Towers grazier Matt Bennetto, who lives only 100 kilometres from the port and exports the bulk of his cattle from there, questioned whether producers could supply the demand.
“People talk about us running out of cattle to supply these large numbers within the next month or two months, ” he said.
“I’m not really sure how we can keep up the supply, especially with the prospect of having new markets opening up as well.”
To cater for the changes, Mr Bennetto said his family was shifting its focus from breeding cattle to buying and selling them.
“We can buy cattle that don’t quite fit the (export) criteria and it gives us the option to hold them for a little while and, without significant trucking and transport fees, move them to this (export) market.”
He recently attended a trade trip to China on behalf of lobby group AgForce, and said issues of free trade, blue tongue and port capacity needed to be ironed out to meet Chinese demand for live exports.
Some reports suggested China’s quota could reach one million head of cattle per year.
Ms Brumme-Smith said the Townsville port did not yet service China, but that expanding capacity was a major priority for her business.
“As a port, we need to make sure the infrastructure is there, the berth capabilities are there, the road access is tip-top and let the trucks through easily.”
She said the port had recently spent $217 million of State Government funding on the port access road, and was now planning to upgrade a berth to handle cattle.
The Darwin port was also breaking records.
It exported more than 493,000 head last calendar year, breaking the previous high of 448,196 head in 1997.
For the first quarter of this year, the port exported 8,654 more head of cattle than the same time period last year.
Courtesy of ABC Rural