Lower production constrains 2015 mutton exports

21 January 2016

Australian mutton exports declined 19% year-on-year in 2015, to 150,921 tonnes swt, following a record volume in 2014 (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources). Despite the considerable contraction from year-ago levels – the result of lower production – mutton shipments for 2015 were still 17% higher than the five-year average.

Almost all cuts registered decreased volumes in 2015, compared to the previous year:

  • Carcases were down 20%, to 66,046 tonnes swt
  • Legs were down 20%, to 26,504 tonnes swt
  • Breast & flap were down 16%, to 20,175 tonnes swt
  • Manufacturing was down 9%, to 15,852 tonnes swt
  • Shoulders were down 26%, to 9,261 tonnes swt

The Middle East remained Australia’s largest mutton export market in 2015, despite shipments dropping 7% from the previous year, to 48,938 tonnes swt – although were still 10% above the five-year average. The fall in volumes to the Middle East was largely attributed to reduced mutton production, rather than subdued demand. This trend is expected to continue in 2016.

Mutton exports to China in 2015 were down considerably from the year before, mostly due to high domestic sheep inventories in China during the year. Volumes fell 42% year-on-year, to 28,894 tonnes swt – although Australia’s market share remained fairly steady at around 35%.

Volumes to South East Asia eased 1% on 2014 levels, totalling 25,436 tonnes swt. Shipments to the two major markets in the region, Malaysia (14,963 tonnes swt) and Singapore (8,883 tonnes swt), were 6% and 2% lower year-on-year, respectively. Interestingly, mutton exports to Indonesia in 2015 more than doubled the previous year, reaching 1,569 tonnes swt.

To the US, Australian mutton volumes in 2015 registered a 2% decline year-on-year, but remained 51% higher than the five-year average, at 12,971 tonnes swt.

Looking ahead, Australian mutton exports for 2016 are forecast to decrease further as a result of lower production. Shipments are projected to drop 12% year-on-year in 2016, to 127,000 tonnes swt – before starting to recover out to 2019, to 145,000 tonnes swt.

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