Ray Donovan works some cattle around the sale ring at the Grafton Livestock Selling Centre.
Ray Donovan works some cattle around the sale ring at the Grafton Livestock Selling Centre. ADAM HOURIGAN

Holy cow: prices are good

CLARENCE Valley cattle growers are in an enviable position to capitalise on a surge in food commodity exports in 2011-12.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences released figures yesterday that forecast commodity exports would grow past $250 billion for the year, a rise of 14%.

ABARES deputy executive director Paul Morris said earnings from Australia’s commodity exports had been forecast to rise by 14% to a record of $251 billion in 2011-12, following a forecast strong increase of 29% to $221  billion in 2010-11.

Despite the adverse impact of recent excessive rainfall and floods, the forecast value of farm exports in 2010-11 represents an upward revision of about $1 billion from the forecast released by ABARES in December, mainly reflecting the effect of recent significant increases in agricultural prices on world markets.

Clarence Valley cattleman Ray Donovan said cattle prices at the Grafton Livestock Selling Centre had lifted over the past four months, with overseas buyers featuring strongly, and showed no sign of dropping.

“In the short term at least things are looking pretty bright,” he said.

“It’s been a good season, although the flood didn’t help, but there’s plenty of feed about and we’re getting into the best season, locally, for cattle.”

The only problem could be a shortage of local cattle.

“We need to have 1000 head a week here to keep the buyers coming,” he said.

“In January and February we were getting that, but today we only had just over 900. That’s not too bad, but we need to get it up to that 1000 mark.”

Mr Donovan said growers were looking to re-stock with prices up around $200 each for re-stockers.

He suggested growers should be looking to get rid of their cull cows and replace them with fit young breeding females.

“It’s a bit of a worry, but with the prices the way they are I’m sure they’ll find a way,’ he said.

ABARES forecasts good prices for two other rural products grown in the Valley – dairy and sugar.

But the future of the sugar industry is not so rosy with floods damaging crop prospects in two years’ time.

But next year’s crop could provide some relief for growers.

And while ABARES says export prospects for dairy products look good, local growers are looking anxiously at the fallout from the discount war between rival supermarket chains Woolworths and Coles.



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