2023 red meat export figures a barometer of the global economy

New Zealand’s red meat sector exported products worth $10.2 billion in 2023, a drop in value of 11 percent compared to the previous year.

The analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA) shows that while export volumes increased, the value fell from the record figures for both sheepmeat and beef in 2022.

“Red meat exports are a good barometer of the state of the global economy,” says Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the MIA.

“The drop was mainly due to tough economic conditions and inflationary pressures in many of our key markets. Consumers around the world still want to buy red meat but they are not paying as much for it.

“Increased supply from other exporters, including a significant increase in Australian sheepmeat exports, also had an impact. The top five markets were unchanged from 2022 but the value of New Zealand exports was mostly down, reflecting the overall trend.”

China remained the largest market but exports fell 16 percent to $3.6 billion. However, exports to the United States rose eight percent, to $2.5 billion, largely due to increased demand for beef.

“New Zealand’s red meat sector has a diverse export market strategy and this has helped mitigate the impact of the weakening demand and pricing in any one single market,” says Ms Karapeeva.

“With red meat sales declining in China, companies have other options and are making sound commercial decisions.

Exports to Japan fell 31 percent to $388 million, 22 percent to the UK to $361 million and four percent to the Netherlands, to $347 million.


Sheepmeat export volumes rose by three percent to 384,239 tonnes. However, the value was down 14 percent to $3.7 billion.

This drop largely reflected cost of living pressures in key markets but also increased competition from across the Tasman where exports increased following three years of good growing conditions and flock rebuilding.

Australian sheepmeat exports rose by 25 percent overall in 2023 and by 50 percent to China.

China’s tariff on Australian sheepmeat also dropped to zero at the beginning of 2023, meaning New Zealand no longer enjoys a tariff advantage in the market.

China continued to be New Zealand’s largest sheepmeat market at 216,079 tonnes, 56 percent of total sheepmeat exports. Volumes rose by 10 percent but value also fell 10 percent to $1.4 billion.

The US was New Zealand’s third largest market by volume at 27,567 tonnes but the second largest by value at $544 million. Volume and value fell five percent and eight percent respectively. At $18.04/kg free on board (FoB), the US was still one of New Zealand’s highest value markets.

The UK was the second largest sheepmeat market, at 30,133 tonnes, down seven percent by volume and 29 percent by value to $291 million.

The drop was mostly due to the effect of high inflation and food prices on consumer spending, with some impact from increased Australian supply following Australia’s Free Trade Agreement with the UK coming into force mid-year.


The volume of beef exports increased by seven percent to 511,680 tonnes but the value fell nine percent to $4.4 billion, reflecting difficult economic conditions, particularly in North Asia, and high levels of exports from other global suppliers.

There was a significant recovery of beef exports to the US. Drought conditions that led to high US domestic production during 2022 eased in some regions and New Zealand and Australia benefited from the increased demand with both having good quota access.

New Zealand ’s beef exports to the US grew by 46 percent to 181,040 tonnes and 28 percent by value to $1.6 billion.

Volumes of exports to Canada also grew by 77 percent to 18,110 million tonnes with value up 52 percent to $155 million.

China remained the largest market by volume at 203,509 tonnes, down six per cent. However, the weak economy, high inventory levels and large volumes of Brazilian exports saw value drop 26 percent to $1.56 billion. 

Exports to other major North Asian markets all declined, largely due to inflation and cost-of-living pressures. Japan was down 34 percent to $230 million, Taiwan six percent to $176 million and Korea 40 percent to $137 million.

The UK was a small but improving market. The NZ-UK FTA came into force in mid-2023, providing New Zealand with significantly improved quota access for beef. This was reflected in the volume exports to the UK growing by 83 percent to 2,421 tonnes, and the value growing by 93 percent to $27 million.

Most of this growth was in high value chilled beef, making the UK one of New Zealand’s top markets for chilled beef in 2023, with exports of 884 tonnes worth $11.8 million.

Fifth quarter

Fifth quarter exports were worth $2 billion in 2023, down eight percent from 2022.

The value of exports for most categories declined, or only increased slightly. Casings and tripe remained the largest fifth quarter category of the year with exports of $383 million, down 13 per cent. The largest market was China at $281 million, followed by Italy at $18 million and Korea, $14 million.

Edible offals were the second largest category, worth $341 million, down four percent. China was the major market at $74 million, followed by Japan at $65 million and Korea, $37 million.

December 2023

Overall exports for red meat over December 2023 were worth $923 million, up one percent on the same period in 2022.

The top markets were China with $320 million, the US at $237 million, the UK at $44 million, Japan at $42 million and the Netherlands at $25 million.

A total of 39,085 tonnes of sheepmeat was exported, up 16 percent in volume and down three percent in value to $318 million.

Beef exports were up 18 percent by volume to 52,805 tonnes but down 10 percent by value to $436 million.

Fifth quarter exports were down 11 percent to $170 million.