Healthy returns from lamb exports

The average value for lamb, mutton and beef exports has increased in the first nine months of the meat export season. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
The average value for lamb, mutton and beef exports has increased in the first nine months of the meat export season. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Lamb exports surpassed $2 billion in the first nine months of the 2013-14 meat export season for only the fourth time.

During the period, from October 1 to June 30, the average value of lamb exports was $8320 free on board per tonne, up 15% on the same period last season. The total value of lamb exports lifted by 10% to $2.06 billion free on board (fob), Beef and Lamb New Zealand statistics showed.

Lamb export volumes decreased by 3.6% to 247,000 tonnes shipped weight in the nine-month period, compared with the same period last season.

June was particularly low, down 13% on the corresponding month in 2013, accounting for 40% of the decline in volumes in 2013-14.

Exports to the European Union decreased by 5.9%, partly offset by a 2.4% rise in exports to North Asia.

The change in export destinations included a change in allocation between chilled and frozen lamb. Exports of chilled lamb decreased by 6.1%, compared with a 2.8% decline for frozen lamb.

Lamb slaughter in Australia - New Zealand's main competition in lamb export markets - was predicted to fall 7% in the 2014-15 season and export volumes were predicted to fall even further.

That, combined with improving demand from traditional markets, augured well for prices and could mean opportunities for New Zealand lamb exporters in the forthcoming season, Westpac's latest agri update said.

The 2013-14 season had seen high levels of mutton processing but that was starting to drop off and was expected to continue easing until the end of the season, Beef and Lamb NZ said.

The high mutton throughput reflected early processing and the impact of dairy conversions.

Beef and veal exports increased by 4.4% to 312,700 tonnes shipped weight in the nine-month period, the second-highest level ever recorded, while the total value increased by 5.8% to $1.85 billion fob.

Westpac's report said beef prices had risen further in recent weeks, as peak summer demand ran into very tight supply in the United States.

The rise in prices had occurred despite increased supply from the rest of the world, particularly Australia.

New Zealand had been able to meet this demand to some degree. However, cow slaughter was heading into the usual slow patch that followed the end of the dairying season.

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