Opportunities and challenges in key markets

28 August 2018

It's a positive road ahead if Australian lamb and mutton can capitalise on growing global demand, MLA’s 2018 Global Markets Forum - Sheepmeat held in conjunction with LambEx in Perth, was told.

Australia’s lamb and sheepmeat exports are now worth $3.3 billion a year, with domestic sales at $2.7 billion.

More than 95% of mutton and 60% of lamb production is destined for international dinner tables.

The forum heard from MLA specialists in key markets – including Australia – about demands, challenges and the strategies behind directing Australian product to high value destinations.

MLA’s General Manager - International Markets Michael Finucan said robust economies, a growing population and rising demand for high quality proteins were signals of a bright outlook.

“However, Australia will have to be strategic in targeting growth to high value markets to hit the sweet spot between supply and best economic return,” he said.

MLA’s Manager Market Intelligence Scott Tolmie said the global sheepmeat industry had grown 50% in the past 25 years and was forecast to see 2% annual growth in coming years.

“Most regions are forecast to grow but we can’t feed the whole world. Supply will need to be targeted and factor in the huge amount of variables that impact demand and supply,” he said pointing out the risks with climate variability, exchange rates, trade agreements and biosecurity threats.

Attendees heard about four key markets for Australian sheepmeat and lamb. Here are key takeaways on each of those markets:

The UK and EU

Opportunities: Europeans spend $1,600 billion a year on food and drink making it a high value market where demand cannot be filled by local supply. Australia already has a strong relationship with the UK and EU markets and consumers in those markets love lamb.

Challenges: The uncertainties around future trade relations with negotiations continuing on the end of Brexit, the EU Australian Free Trade Agreement and the Australia UK Free Trade Agreement.

Producer action: Get up to date on the trade negotiations and the various market limitations. Make contact with Sheep Producers Australia  to learn more on the value of these markets to lobby their local members and the Australian Government about the importance of ensuring good trade access.

Middle East and North Africa region (MENA)

Opportunities: These markets value fresh quality lamb, usually as a whole carcase, and with rising income levels and population there is significant opportunity to continue to grow the sector. MLA is working in specific markets to promote the use of chilled and boxed cuts, as opposed to whole carcases.

Challenges: It’s a diverse market place with different political and export regimes from country-to-country. The largest protein competitor is frozen chicken from Brazil, selling for under $2/kg.

Producer action: These markets still like a small carcase and understanding market specifications is important.

The US

Opportunities: With each US consumer eating less than 0.5kg of lamb/year and only 150,000t of lamb consumed by  this market last year, the US is still considered a growth opportunity. Just under half the lamb eaten in the US is Australian. The focus is on foodservice and encouraging take up of lamb on menus, along with growing lamb’s footprint in the retail sector.

Challenges: It’s a complex market with lots of competing proteins with many Americans having never tried lamb.

Producer action: Quality, consistency and safe red meat production underpin the growth of these markets. Understand the market specifications and aim to match it with production.


Opportunities: Australians already love lamb and it suits a range of cuisines and meal occasions. Opportunities lie in securing more of the protein spend by showcasing its versatility and quality.

Challenges: Fewer Australian households are consuming lamb and they are purchasing less frequently. Consumers, particularly younger ones, want to know where their food is from and if it is 'good for me and good for the planet?'. More and more consumers are seeking convenience and want confidence that what they purchase and prepare will taste good.

Producer action: Share your story. Make consumers feel really good about lamb. Pick up ideas on how to do this and facts at MLA's new consumer focused information website www.goodmeat.com.au

Learn more about the destinations for Australia's sheepmeat and lamb with MLA's Market Snapshots.

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