Record volumes of lamb exported by Australia and New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand have exported a higher volume of lamb in the first quarter of 2019 but that didn't influence the prices, according to an MLA analysis.
First quarter New Zealand lamb exports lifted 11% year-on-year and were 5% above the five-year average. Typically, New Zealand lamb exports peak in March but, depending on seasonal conditions, can remain elevated through to the end of May. Given the lift in exports in March, New Zealand lamb supply may have already peaked for the season.
Meanwhile, lamb-producing regions in Australia have continued to grapple with deteriorating feed conditions and water shortages, pushing increased lamb and sheep numbers through to slaughter. First quarter Australian lamb exports were up 19% year-on-year and were 27% above the five-year average.
The most significant transformation in export dynamics has come from China, purchasing record volumes of imported product in 2018. For New Zealand, China now represents half of the total sheepmeat exports; for Australia, it is closer to a quarter. While both countries have greatly benefitted from China, the market remains sensitive to fluctuations in its domestic flock and ongoing trade tensions.
However, Beef + Lamb NZ estimated the 2018-19 lamb crop to decline slightly, to 23.7 million head, so high export levels may reflect dryer-than-normal conditions in New Zealand and fewer lambs being held back as replacements. Looking ahead, lamb supplies in New Zealand will continue to dry up until the new season commences in the last quarter of 2019. In Australia, much hinges on a decent autumn break in key sheep-producing regions.
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