In this file:


·         Victorian red meat processor COVID-19 restrictions stay in force

·         Weekly kill: Grids continue to soften, in face of lacklustre export markets



Victorian red meat processor COVID-19 restrictions stay in force


Terry Sim, BEEF Central (Australia)

September 7, 2020


VICTORIAN Premier Daniel Andrews has said the state’s red meat processors will stay under current COVID-19 workforce restrictions for “the foreseeable future” despite conceding they are operating “probably at their lowest risk rating ever”.


Although the Premier yesterday announced a detailed community roadmap for leaving the current statewide metropolitan and regional lockdowns, the pathway for red meat processors remains unclear and seemingly still under discussion.


The unclear State Government position on red meat processing’s COVID-19 status, despite several regional processors maintaining virus-free workplaces in areas with no or very low virus case loads, has been widely criticised.


Sheep Central understands that the Australian Meat Industry Council is still in negotiation with Agriculture Victoria and Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes about what the actual settings will be for ‘heavily restricted’ meat processing facilities from next week through to the end of September and to late November.


A State Government roadmap document released yesterday stated that the seafood and meat processing sector would continue to be ‘heavily restricted’ with workforce restrictions after 11.59pm on 13 September and potentially up to November 23, without detailing what this means or how regional or metropolitan processors could gain a less restricted status.


Additionally, the documents seemed to indicate that the meat processing sector could move to a ‘restricted’ status after November 23, but again the conditions for this were not detailed.


In response to questioning at his daily COVID-19 update today, Mr Andrews said the current 33pc cut on peak workforce levels being imposed on meat processors would remain “largely in place for the foreseeable future”.


“We are in active discussions. Obviously the further into Spring you get, this is a seasonal industry, so there will be some direct impacts there,” he said.


When asked if there was a step the industry could look toward when the restrictions might change, Mr Andrews said he thought the government was still finalising some of those discussions.


“It is quite unique, so what is happening with an abattoir, a boning room that deals with lamb as we come into spring, those who might deal with veal for instance as we get right into the middle of calving season, all of those things change.


“And when I can bring that all into one complete picture I’m more than happy to come back to you,” he told a reporter.


“But we are speaking directly with beef, lamb, poultry, pork, seafood – all of them, so that we can do what’s necessary to manage the risk, but also what’s necessary to keep the shelves stocked, not necessarily with necessary with every product you want, but with the products you need.


“And I want to thank people across that industry for the work they’ve done,” he said.


“We’ve seen standards have lifted, compliance has lifted.


“Those high-risk workplaces are operating probably at their lowest risk rating ever and that’s why we’ve not seen further outbreaks,” he said.


“But we can’t be complacent there, we’ve got to keep going.


“When I can paint a more complete picture on that I am more than happy to come back.”


In today’s update, Mr Andrews said he understood a lot of businesses, sectors and peak bodies did not get the news they wanted yesterday.


“I understand that and I want to be really clear about this – it’s not just about profits, it’s about their people as well , they are concerned about all of those things.


“If we could have provided a different series of steps, more things open faster and done that safely, then of course that’s what we would have done.


Mr Andrews said the government this week would continue to consult with a very wide range of businesses, “particularly those worst affected by these necessary steps” about the types of assistance needed. He said the roadmap would mean 101,000 workers returning to work, but did not detail if this included in the processing sector.


When asked today if the roadmap plan could be changed depending on industry feedback, Mr Andrews said: “this plan will be driven by the data and it will be driven by the doctors and there is no other way.”


Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive officer Patrick Hutchinson said AMIC continued to support the Victorian Farmers Federation in seeking a reduction to the workforce restriction cut to 20pc as well as site-by-site risk assessment and not a blanket application of restrictions.


“As soon as we can get some certainty from this government we will then put out a statement,” he said.


Victorian Farmers Federation Livestock Group president Leonard Vallance said the State Government should have spelt out what the ‘heavily restricted’ and ‘restricted’ status labels meant.


“It’s a bloody joke.


“The government is incomplete disarray and they’ve got the spin doctors out there telling the community that this disease is going to be out of our community in another couple of weeks – no, it’s not,” he said...





Weekly kill: Grids continue to soften, in face of lacklustre export markets


Jon Condon, BEEF Central

September 8, 2020


More adjustments were seen in Queensland slaughter cattle grid offers this week, in the face of listless export markets and a rising currency.


While tight slaughter cattle supply would normally motivate processors to maintain grids at current high levels, the lack of financial return in international markets is dis-incentivising processors from continuing to compete for cattle that look very expensive, in global comparisons.


An A$ still trading close to US73c, hovering around two-year highs, is also curbing export customer demand, at a time when other export nations are very active.


Some Queensland processor competitors have dropped their offers a further 10c/kg since Friday, and most of the state’s grids have now dipped a combined 20-30c/kg over the past fortnight.


That comes despite JBS Dinmore’s return to work on Monday this week after a fortnight’s closure due to the poor supply outlook and lack of profitability in converting comparatively expensive cattle into a flat export beef trade. Dinmore plans to kill four days this week, and will attempt to maintain at least four-day weekly rosters heading through September.


Best offers seen this week from competitive processors in Southern and Central Queensland ranged from 610-620c/kg for four-tooth heavy steers (some of those higher grids for HGP-free only), and 550-565c/kg for heavy cows.


Further south, quotes out of export plants in southern NSW and eastern South Australian were 605c/kg on four-tooth heavy steer and 550c/kg on heavy cows without excess fat. Some southern processors are counting on seeing a modest run of slaughter cattle over the next month, as spring conditions warm up.


Bindaree Beef in northern NSW was not offering a slaughter grid this week, apparently satisfied with its current level of bookings.


The word from processor meat sales desks this morning was a little more activity in the trim market into Japan early this week, but generally overseas markets remain very flat. Imported grinding beef prices into the US have continued to retract, with the 90CL imported indicator falling about A40c/kg over the past two months, to A667c/kg CIF last week – it’s lowest point since June last year. Currency value is a significant part of that trend.


The weekly US imported beef report points out this week that lean grinding beef prices from Australia/New Zealand are still trading at a significant US15-20c/lb premium to the growing quantities of South American beef being seen in the market. Irish beef also continues to flow into the US at levels well above a year ago, however, the recent strength in the value of the Euro has negatively impacted this trade.


US seasonal conditions on the turn


Of longer-term concern to Australia’s manufacturing beef trade into the US, pasture conditions in the US have been well below average for much of the recent northern hemisphere summer, but have deteriorated even more in recent weeks…


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