The saying ‘it never rains but it pours’ has been very applicable to weather conditions in the past fortnight. Large parts of the lower North Island were getting dry again, but some significant downpours have taken the pressure away. There was a little too much for some regions though, with isolated flooding reported in the Hawke’s Bay and Taumaranui. It’s continued to be wetter than usual through the majority of the South Island, which has been good for the majority, but the odd area would be happy to get little bit more sunshine. All eyes are now on Cyclone Hola, which is barrelling towards NZ at the time of writing.
The need for numbers is over-powering processors’ desire to maintain margins on cattle. Although the direction of schedules has been mixed, spot-premiums have pulled the market upwards week-on-week. Supplies are shortest in the North Island, where the largest spot-premiums can be found, but more cattle are slowly beginning to come out of the woodwork. It is likely we’ll see some weakness once the dairy cow kill gets some volume behind it. Processors expect this to happen in late-May/early-April. North Island beef calf sales have begun on a strong note, generally 20c/kg above last year’s already record pricing.
US imported beef values eased a little in recent weeks. Buyers are aware that supplies out of NZ usually lift from April and are choosing to stay out of the market until then. The NZD:USD has become a less volatile, but is well above late-2017 levels. Chinese buyers are slowly re-entering the market following the Chinese New Year holidays. Indications to date suggest a stable or slightly firmer market compared to pre-holiday levels.
Lamb slaughter pricing has only travelled upwards this past fortnight. As with cattle, it is the fight for numbers underpinning the market, meaning $7.00/kg and upwards is easily achievable in both islands. Finishers have noticed these increases and it’s expected that lambs will be easier to source throughout the remainder of March as a result. Mutton has also benefitted from low lamb throughput, and will likely hit around the $5.00/kg mark before the end of autumn. Both lamb and mutton schedules are at all-time records for this time of the year.
More of the same has been the trend when it comes to international lamb sales. Middle cuts have firmed a little in both the US and Continental Europe, but all other cuts are essentially unchanged in all markets.
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