Kill level more than 10% down on record 2003

23 November 2004

Historically low slaughter rates led some packers to raise prices on the most plentiful branded selections but tanners' responses were lukewarm. Cow hides fared better but at lower prices. Heavy Texas steers, which had been trading at $64-$64.50, were then offered at $67-$68, which is the equivalent of between $73-$74 c&f. A comparatively small number of bids were seen at $69-$69.50 c&f (around $63.50-$64 fob) but were refused by producers and traders. According to Cattle Buyers Weekly, any hopes by the Bush Administration that a Japanese meat agreement can be announced before the elections on November 2 are fading. This does not bode well for the reopening of the US-Canadian border to Canadian cattle imports. Sources predict that USDA's proposed rule is unlikely to be published before the election. There is speculation that Japan may wait until next June before they are ready to reach an agreement. This will be after USDA has completed the first year of its enhanced BSE surveillance programme. Even then, Japan may only accept boneless beef and offal from cattle less than 20 months old. Prices were steady on those hides which actually did change hands. However, in general, less were sold to tanners than the 616,000 that were produced by the packers. Although there appears to be some demand for most hides, it is only at levels where profits can be made on leather that prices tend to be stagnant. Tanners are digging their heels in and saying they have more and more alternative sources of raw material and are not dependent on the US for their supplies. It is also the quiet season in terms of leather sales so they feel they can operate for a number of weeks without buying American material. Fortunately, just as tanners seem in no hurry to buy, most producers are not in any great rush to sell. As we go to press, Taiwan, South Korea and China were all taking a break for holidays, which is unlikely to encourage any rise in prices for the time being. Federally inspected slaughter for the four-week period ending September 24 is estimated at 616,000 head. The week before it was 641,000 cattle and one year ago, FIS was 690,000 head. FIS is currently running at 10.6% below last year's record numbers. USDA report that cattle and calves on feedlots for slaughter amounted to 9.97 million head on September 1, 2004, 1% above September 1, 2003, but 2% below September 1, 2002. Total raw hides sold for export for the four-week period ended September 16 totalled 1,597,500, giving a weekly average of 399,375. South Korea took the largest share at 484,600 with China close behind at 407,800. Taiwan took a reasonable 222,000 during this time; Japan 130,300; Mexico 109,200; Hong Kong 85,700; Thailand 64,700; Italy 14,200; Vietnam 13,300; and Canada 4,600. Over the same period, Italy also bought 45,000 calf and kip; Japan 20,200; China 6,300 kip; and Hong Kong 2,700 kip. Wet-blue hides sold for export amounted to 373,300 pieces in total or 93,325/week. Hong Kong was the destination for 128,700; Italy 68,700; Korea 46,200; Taiwan 44,600; Mexico 37,000; Dominican Republic 13,500; Thailand 9,000; Costa Rica 3,100; Japan and France taking 2,100 each; India 2,000; and Canada 1,300. Wet-blue split sales during the period under review amounted to 5,479,200lb with Hong Kong taking 2,356,900lb; China 1,008,700lb; Mexico 994,000lb; Italy 573,000lb; and Indonesia 200,000lb.

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