Lamb export growth across most major markets

10 November 2016

Despite the seasonal increase in spring lamb supplies, and consequent higher export volumes, Australian lamb shipments in October remained 2% below year-ago levels, at 21,234 tonnes swt (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources). Compared to the five-year (2011-2015) October average, however, exports were up 7%.

Due to higher year-on-year volumes shipped during the first six months of the year, the January to October total remained 1% above the corresponding period last year. The largest growth markets for the year-to-date include China, the US, Japan, Korea and Papua New Guinea. Although the volume to the Middle East as a whole is lower year-on-year for the ten month period, the UAE and Qatar have recorded strong growth.

Total chilled lamb exports for the year-to-October eased 2% year-on-year, to 82,773 tonnes swt – with increased chilled shipments to the US and Korea not enough to offset the declines to the Middle East and the EU. Frozen lamb volumes for the year-to-date rose 4%, to 112,769 tonnes swt, largely driven by year-on-year increases to China, the US, Korea, the EU and Japan.

Lamb exports to the Middle East for the January to October period were 10% lower than the corresponding period last year, at 51,962 tonnes swt. The majority consisted of chilled product (43,492 tonnes swt), which eased 6% year-on-year, while frozen volumes (8,470 tonnes swt) were down 27%. Most of the decline to the Middle East was attributed to a 92% drop in shipments to Bahrain for the year-to-date – from 7,419 tonnes swt in 2015, to 593 tonnes swt in 2016 – due to the lifting of the government subsidy on imported Australian lamb. Encouragingly though, two of the largest and most progressive markets in the Middle East for Australian lamb – the UAE and Qatar – did record considerable growth for the January to October period. Volumes to the UAE were up 12% year-on-year, to 17,090 tonnes swt, and to Qatar increased 13%, to 13,584 tonnes swt.

Lamb shipments to the US lifted 8% year-on-year, reaching 42,917 tonnes for the year-to-date. The proportion of Australian chilled lamb exports to the US tends to increase in October, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday season (also in February, ahead of Easter). For the January to October period, both chilled and frozen volumes increased – up 7% and 8%, respectively, to 23,267 tonnes swt and 19,650 tonnes swt. Assorted cuts, shanks, manufacturing and carcases recorded the greatest growth so far this year.

Demand from China has strengthened this year, with shipments up 21% for the year-to-date, to 31,326 tonnes swt – all of which was frozen product. Volumes of breast and flap to China increased 7% year-on-year, to 19,360 tonnes swt, while manufacturing increased 41%, to 5,974 tonnes swt. Shipments of neck increased 20%, to 3,150 tonnes swt, and shoulder recorded a more than four-fold increase, to 2,389 tonnes swt for the January to October period. Reports suggest that importers are anticipating good demand for sheepmeat during the upcoming cooler months.

Korea has been a significant growth market for both Australian beef and lamb exports in 2016. Lamb shipments to Korea for the year-to-October jumped 37% on the same period last year, to 6,636 tonnes swt. In-market reports attribute the growth to expansion in the food service and retail sectors, with several Korean hypermarkets now selling chilled product in store. Australian chilled lamb exports to Korea have more than doubled year-on-year, to 1,338 tonnes swt for the ten month period, while frozen exports were 26% higher, at 5,298 tonnes swt. For the year-to-date, volumes of breast and flap almost doubled, to 1,578 tonnes swt, shoulder increased 39%, to 3,427 tonnes swt, and rack shipments jumped 81%, to 472 tonnes swt.

MLA’s recently released export snapshots provide a regular up-to-date picture of Australia’s red meat export portfolio.

Click here to access the latest snapshots for:

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