Subscribe to MLA's e-newsletters

Stay informed with the latest red meat and livestock industry news, events, research and marketing.

Sign up
Back to News & Events

Australian exports pick up the pace

09 March 2023

Key points:

  • Australian red meat exports totalled 125,003 tonnes in February.
  • Exports rose across all major markets, especially Indonesia, China and the United States.
  • Demand on the global market is expected to remain solid as other exporters face challenges.

Off the back of higher slaughter numbers in 2023, Australian red meat export volumes grew in February to 125,003 tonnes – 20% higher than the same period in 2022.

High demand in overseas markets, alongside a complex supply picture in other exporting regions, has given Australian exporters solid export conditions as production continues to rise.  


February 2023 exports totalled 70,379 tonnes, 18% higher than February 2022. This was due to an increase of 34% in grassfed exports to 47,165 tonnes. In comparison, grainfed exports declined 5% year-on-year to 23,214 tonnes.

Beef exports year-on-year:

  • Japan grew by 3% year-on-year to 16,657 tonnes.
  • South Korea grew 26% to 13,342 tonnes.
  • China grew by 9% to 12,528 tonnes.
  • United States grew by 30% to 11,623 tonnes.
  • Exports to Indonesia grew by 237% to 6,301 tonnes.

The substantial growth in the Indonesian market is the largest February increase for exports to Indonesia on record. This accounted for almost 9% of Australian beef exports in the month – the highest proportion of any month on record.

Figure 1: February beef exports to major markets 2021-2023

Source: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Lamb and mutton

As a total, sheepmeat exports have grown by 19% to 38,360 tonnes year-on-year.

In 2023, lamb exports grew by 10% to 11,769 tonnes, however mutton exports made the largest growth, rising by 37% to 15,592 tonnes.

Lamb exports year-on-year:

  • United States grew by 3% to 5,546 tonnes – remaining the largest market for Australian lamb.
  • China grew by 15% to 4,516 tonnes.
  • The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region grew by 32% to 3,587 tonnes.
  • South Korea grew by 63% to 1,799 tonnes.

Mutton exports year-on-year:

  • China grew by 59% year-on-year to 6,407 tonnes – the largest shipment of Australian mutton to any market on record.
  • Malaysia grew by 27% to 2,430 tonnes.
  • United States grew by 59% to 1,183 tonnes.

What is most striking about these export figures is that these trends are occurring outside drought conditions. Previous records show that the only time exports have exceeded February’s numbers was in the drought of 2019/2020, when producers were shrinking their herds in the face of drought conditions.

The high export volumes seen so far this year, surpassing a very strong 2022, bode well for sheepmeat exports in 2023.

Figure 2: February sheepmeat exports to major markets 2021-2023

Source: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Looking ahead

Exports are likely to remain strong for the next several months, especially compared to 2022 levels. The flooding in southern Queensland and northern NSW in early 2022 disrupted production and substantially affected the Port of Brisbane, slowing exports in March and April in particular.

At the same time, export suspensions from Brazil due to the case of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) detected in late February have temporarily reduced the amount of beef on the global market, supporting export prices and boosting demand for Australian proteins overall.