The coming fiscal year will see a slump in beef production in Australia, in turn hurting exports.

The government’s Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (Abare) today [Monday] forecast that the estimated beef output for the current fiscal year of 2.11 million metric tons would slump by as much as 16% to 1l.78mt in the next fiscal year ending 30 June 2004.

A persistent drought is largely to blame for the forecast slump, reported Dow Jones. The drought has forced many beef producers to sell off herds as pasture land was limited. This boosted beef output this year. Next year producers will retain more animals as they try to rebuild their herds. Cattle headcount is forecast to reach 26.8m beasts next year, up from 26.7m this year but well down from 28.1m last year.

Australia is a leading exporter of beef, notably to the US, Japan and other Asian markets.

Abare predicted that overall beef exports next fiscal year will plummet 20% to 757,000mt shipped weight valued at A$3.51bn (US$2.33bn) from estimated exports this fiscal year of 946,000 tons valued at A$4.01bn.