Consumers are being warned their summer barbecues will be more expensive as the supply of cattle in Australia tightens.
Drought in eastern states, high demand for Australian beef in the United States and a lower Australian dollar has led to a surge in cattle prices.
Shoppers have started to favour the cheaper cuts of meat, such as mince and sausages, in response to 30 per cent increases in beef prices this year.
Susan McDonald, from meat retailer Super Butcher, said it was inevitable beef prices would rise.
“Across the board, perhaps about 28 per cent increases, some of the more budget cuts have come up faster,” Ms McDonald said.
“I think absolutely people are looking for ways to extend their budget … I think sausages and mince are seeing a new revolution.”
Graziers big winners in price hike
Ms McDonald’s family is one of Australia’s largest beef producers, with properties in north-west Queensland and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
She said cattle graziers would be the big winners out of the unique price situation.
“It’s just great to see producers getting these prices,” she said.
“You’d have to be a pretty miserable old butcher not to be taking some pleasure and celebrating with producers at the moment.”
Northern Territory pastoralist Justin Dyer said he could hardly believe his luck.
A few years ago, many northern Australian cattle producers were questioning their future due to an uncertain trade relationship with Indonesia.
It is amazing what a difference a few years can make.
“Oh it’s a massive turnaround,” Mr Dyer said.
“It’s really good money, probably the best we’ve ever got for heifers.
“People are spending more money in town, you might put a new kitchen in or something like that or buy a quad bike. All those things flow through to the local economy.”
Prices to stay high, analyst predicts
Lex Mesner, who farms near St George in southern Queensland, said the current prices were the best he had seen after more than 50 years in the game.
“The only way we’re going to get money in our pockets is if these sort of rates keep going and go up,” Mr Mesner said.
“If it keeps on going up we might end up silvertails yet.”
I think Coles and Woolworths will have trouble getting enough beef this summer. Some people will choose to take turkey, chicken, pork or fish or salmon, the market will sort itself out.Merchant banker David Williams
Meat and Livestock Australia analyst Ben Thomas said consumers would have to get used to paying more for beef, with cattle prices set to remain high.
“There’s an expected strong demand to remain internationally and also in the domestic market and the number of cattle available is going to be much tighter next year,” Mr Thomas said.
“So with those two factors in play we do have a fair bit of confidence in the longer-term price outlook for the Australian cattle market.”
Merchant banker David Williams predicted many retailers, including the major supermarkets, would be concerned about beef supplies this summer.
“I think Coles and Woolworths will have trouble getting enough beef this summer,” Mr Williams said.
“Some people will choose to take turkey, chicken, pork or fish or salmon, the market will sort itself out.
“From Coles and Woolworths’ perspective, by the end of summer, they will say we didn’t get all the beef we wanted, we only got 80 per cent … but from the punter’s point of view there will be enough beef, you will just have to pay a lot more for it for Christmas.”