Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 20/03/2001, pg. 6

QUEENSLAND beef is on the menu for export buyers.

Premier Peter Beattie is poised to push Queensland beef exports when he visits Egypt next month.

Buyers from export abattoirs and feedlots yesterday paid near record prices for cattle at the Toowoomba saleyards.

Mr Beattie said he sympathised with the plight of European farmers struggling with the foot-and-outbreak and mad cow disease.

But he said Queensland should move quickly to capitalise on markets where European products had been banned.

“Sales of live cattle to Egypt have leapt from virtually nothing two years ago to $28 million last year,” Mr Beattie said.

“I will be promoting additional sales of Queensland chilled beef and live cattle in Egypt, focusing on the disease-free status of our cattle and bans on imports from a number of traditional sources.”

Mr Beattie’s travelling group would include Queensland beef industry figures and follow up on visits to the Middle East by Queensland trade commissioner and former premier Mike Ahern. Export beef buyers were yesterday among more than 50 buyers bidding for 2000 head of store and fat cattle at Toowoomba saleyards. Some buyers were entering the market for the first time.

Clifton farmer and grazier Dave O’Connor bought 70 weaners in his first foray into the Toowoomba market, paying 178/kg or $380 a head for the stock to increase his herd of 170 mixed-breed cattle.

Primac Elders auctioneer Leo McMahon said much of the stock auctioned in Toowoomba was bought for processing and export, and this was pushing up domestic prices.

Prices have more than doubled since this time last year when cows were selling for as little as 64/kg.

The strongest demand is for weaners and store cattle — indicating strong confidence that the market will remain buoyant in the future.

Some cattlemen do not believe the market can go much higher and are starting to hold off buying young cattle in the hope prices will ease as the winter turn-off begins this month.

But the higher prices have not deterred Dave O’Connor, who is expanding his herd potentially to 1200 head and reducing his grain-growing at his Clifton property, Milbrook.

“I’ve been to watch for the last four weeks and I came to buy today. I can’t sit back and watch the prices going even higher,” he said.

“I planted wheat and lucerne for grazing after the last lot of rain, so I’ll be back here in six weeks or so to buy another 300 head.”

Mr O’Connor said producers were concerned about the foot and mouth disease outbreak in Europe and South America but he was confident Australia’s quarantine was vigilant and said the scare would help Australia’s cattle industry.

He said the existing optimistic market outlook was a bonus in his decision to halve his grain operation and expand his cattle herd.

“We have developed irrigation country and you can’t justify that expense for one crop of wheat a year which might get wiped out by a flood,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We are going into cattle to reduce risk, labour costs and running costs.

“You can buy a beast and it doesn’t become worthless overnight. I’m happy to buy a liquid asset.”

His move was also prompted by the strong demand for beef properties from $2 million to $10 million: denoting confidence in the industry.

Copyright 2001 / Courier Mail