China largest red meat market but US close behind

28 August 2023 – New Zealand exported red meat products worth $807 million during July, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

The figures represented a 24 per cent drop on July 2022, which saw record exports of $1.1 billion for the month due to a catch-up in processing following COVID-related disruptions.

Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of MIA, said the results were in line with previous July exports from 2016-2021, however sheepmeat markets in particular are under significant pressure.

“This big drop is a short term impact from the very high export volumes last July, which were largely a result of Covid-related disruptions in the first quarter. That resulted in a 33 per cent increase in sheepmeat exports compared to July 2021 and was the largest July export volume since 2008.

“However, while this July’s drop in sheepmeat was largely due to short term factors, overall, we are also seeing a long term trend for a reduction in the volume of sheepmeat exports and an increase in beef exports. This is due to the decline in the sheep flock and the increase in cattle numbers – for both beef and dairy.

“Productivity gains in the sheep sector has meant that the drop in sheepmeat exports has not been as significant as the increase in beef exports.”

China remained the largest market for the month, but saw the largest drop in overall exports for both beef and sheepmeat, down 45 per cent to $247m.

Exports to the US were up 25 per cent from last July, to $231m, with beef in particular recovering from very low 2022 levels.  

Canada was the third largest market for the month, with a significant surge in exports, up 98 per cent from last July to $35m. This was mainly driven by record beef exports.


Overall, year on year, sheepmeat exports were down 25 per cent by volume to 24,677 tonnes and 34 per cent by value to $249m. However, exports last July were the highest for a number of years, so the 2023 figures were also in line with other recent July results.

The largest drop in sheepmeat exports was to China, down 31 per cent by volume to 12,148 tonnes and 45 per cent by value to $74m.

Exports to most other markets declined from the high levels of last July, but exports to the US increased, up 33 per cent by volume to 2,571 tonnes and six per cent by value to $49m.


Total beef exports increased by eight per cent by volume, compared to last July, to 46,242 tonnes but dropped 13 per cent by value to $405m.

The US was the largest beef market for the month, taking 18,154 tonnes worth $161m. This was an increase of 115 per cent by volume and 81 per cent by value from the very low level of exports last July.

Beef exports to China declined, down 29 per cent by volume to 16,241 tonnes and 48 per cent by value to $124m compared to last July. While this drop can be partly attributed to the high level of exports last July, exports were still lower than other recent July figures for China.

Fifth quarter

Fifth quarter exports were worth $153m, down 33 per cent from last July. There was a drop in the value of nearly all product categories, apart for petfood which was up two per cent from last July to $12m.