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Will lockdowns impact the red meat industry?

22 July 2021

Key points:

  • This week, nearly 12 million Australians in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide are in lockdown 
  • Parts of regional Australia entered lockdown as the virus spread from the cities 
  • Food processing is considered an exempt activity, allowing it to continue during the lockdown 

This week, the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 plunged SA and central NSW into lockdown. This is in addition to lockdowns already in place in Sydney and Melbourne. Encouragingly for the red meat and processing sector, food processing and manufacturing is listed as an exempt activity, allowing it to continue.  

The processing sector’s ability to continue during lockdown is demonstrated be last week’s national sheep slaughter figures. National sheep slaughter climbed 45% during the week despite NSW and Victoria imposing strict COVID-19 shut downs.

The length and the strength of the lockdown will impact the Australian economy, with initial estimates forecasting the lockdown to take $10 billion off the Australian economy. 

Similar consumer patterns to last year are likely. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the whole grocery segment. Consumers cooked more due to foodservice options being limited because of lockdowns and social distancing restrictions.  

Fresh meat experienced the largest growth in retail value during the pandemic period. Similar trends are expected over the coming period, with close to half of Australia’s population in lockdown. 

For producers, it is reassuring that saleyards and processors remain open for business while many other industries, including construction in Sydney, have been forced to pause during the lockdown.  

© Meat & Livestock Australia Limited, 2021