Chilled lamb exports grow in 2015-16

07 July 2016

Australian lamb exports for 2015-16 (July to June) were relatively similar year-on-year, totalling 241,913 tonnes shipped weight (swt) – Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. The composition of shipments did shift slightly however, with higher value chilled volumes (101,270 tonnes swt) up 3% year-on-year and a 2% decline in frozen product (140,644 tonnes swt) shipped in 2015-16.

Compared to the five-year (2010-11 to 2014-15) average, total lamb exports in 2015-16 were 21% higher.

Australian lamb slaughter and production for the fiscal year-to-April (latest available data) have also tracked fairly steady year-on-year, both just 1% higher, at 19.37 million head and 431,125 tonnes carcase weight, respectively (Australian Bureau of Statistics). NB: export unit values listed throughout the article also refer to the period July-April – the latest available data.

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Shipments to the Middle East, Australia’s largest lamb export destination in 2015-16, eased 3% on the previous year, to 67,522 tonnes swt. Encouragingly, chilled volumes were 2% higher, reaching 54,796 tonnes swt, while frozen lamb shipments were down 20% on the previous year, to 12,727 tonnes swt. The average unit export value to the Middle East edged 1% higher year-on-year in 2015-16, to A$6.69/kg (Global Trade Atlas/ABS).

Lamb exports to the US registered considerable growth during the year, up 11% on 2014-15 levels, to 53,618 tonnes swt. Volumes of both chilled (27,791 tonnes swt) and frozen (25,827 tonnes swt) product increased – 11% and 12% higher year-on-year, respectively. In-market analysts report that lamb consumption in the US has risen over the past year, fuelled by a greater volume of imports rather than domestic lamb production. Lamb has also had a greater presence in the US foodservice and retail sectors. Compared to the previous year, the average export unit value in 2015-16 lowered 7%, at A$9.81/kg, yet in-market reports suggest that Australian exports continue to favour the US market, particularly for cuts such as legs, racks, loins and shoulders.

China’s demand for lamb has been somewhat reignited, with reports that inventories there have finally been reduced and Chinese buyers are again eager to source product. For 2015-16, Australian lamb exports to China lifted 1% on the previous year, to 36,188 tonnes swt – all of which was frozen.    

Papua New Guinea is a relatively high volume market for Australian lamb, but as all product shipped is frozen, it remains a lower value destination. Shipments for 2015-16 increased 34% on the year prior, to 15,668 tonnes swt – although the average unit value declined 25% over the same period, to $2.87/kg.

Lamb exports to the EU fell 19% during 2015-16, to 10,034 tonnes swt, with declines in both chilled (5,336 tonnes swt) and frozen (4,698 tonnes swt) volumes. Largely underpinning the fall was a 27% drop in shipments to the UK, to 6,964 tonnes swt. The export unit value to the EU averaged A$8.81/kg in 2015-16, 5% higher than the previous year.

Korea recorded significant growth in lamb shipments during 2015-16 – with the total jumping 57% year-on-year, to 7,622 tonnes swt. Chilled product more than doubled, to 1,263 tonnes swt, and frozen volumes were up 46%, to 6,359 tonnes swt. The export unit value, however, was 6% lower for the fiscal year, averaging A$6.66/kg – which reportedly encouraged importers to purchase greater volumes. The majority of lamb in Korea is used by the foodservice sector, and in-market insights suggest that lamb consumption has grown in recent months with summer barbeque season underway.

Japan is one of Australia’s higher value export markets, and while export volumes are comparatively lower than some of the aforementioned destinations, it remains a well-established and important market for the Australian lamb industry. That being said, shipments to Japan in 2015-16 declined 12% on the year before, to 8,314 tonnes swt – however this was following a particularly large volume in 2014-15, driven by high production in Australia. The 2015-16 total remains 2% above the five-year (2010-11 to 2014-15) average. Chilled lamb exports to Japan were 10% lower for the fiscal year, at 4,923 tonnes swt, while frozen product was down 15% year-on-year, to 3,390 tonnes swt. The average export unit value eased 9% on the previous year, to A$8.43/kg.

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