Sheep supplies and shipments swell

05 September 2017

A rise in sheep slaughter in August underpinned the surge in mutton shipments during the month. Average weekly eastern states sheep slaughter lifted 22% year-on-year, to just over 103,100 head, while the number processed in WA each week averaged more than 34,600 head – 55% higher than the same time last year.

As a result, Australian mutton shipments in August jumped 51% from year-ago levels, to 11,846 tonnes shipped weight (swt). Furthermore, this was the first month since May 2016 that mutton exports have exceeded the five-year average, doing so by 25%.

The increase was spread across all key export destinations during the month. Compared to the corresponding period last year, volumes to:

  • the Middle East were up 29%, to 3,567 tonnes swt
  • South East Asia increased 17%, to 2,124 tonnes swt
  • China doubled, at 1,967 tonnes swt
  • the US tripled, at 1,070 tonnes swt
  • the EU increased 33%, to 706 tonnes swt

A number of comparatively smaller volume markets also recorded considerable growth in August:

  • Japan almost doubled, at 308 tonnes swt
  • Hong Kong went from close to no exports in August last year, to 252 tonnes swt
  • Mexico increased almost three-fold, to 250 tonnes swt

For the year-to-date, however, total mutton exports are still tracking behind last year, due to lower shipment volumes in the first five months of 2017. For the January to August period, Australian mutton shipments totalled 83,423 tonnes swt – down 4% from year-ago levels.

As discussed in the Australian Sheep Projections August Update, the lift in mutton slaughter (and in turn, production and exports) is likely being driven by the ewes and wethers that were retained this year and last, now coming back through the system.

For more detailed trade statistics, view MLA’s monthly sheepmeat export summary

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