Green shoots for red meat exports with demand up in most markets

North America remained New Zealand’s largest red meat market during May with beef and sheepmeat exports to nearly all major markets increasing year-on-year, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

New Zealand exported red meat products worth $1.1 billion for the month, three per cent up on May 2023. The most significant growth was in beef exports, up five per cent in volume and nine per cent by value. 

Overall exports included $358 million to the United States, up 28 per cent. May was a record month for the value of beef exports to the US.

Exports to Japan rose 96 per cent to $72 million and the UK was up 51 per cent to $62 million.

China was the second largest market with exports of $232 million. This is 42 per cent down from last May.

MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said it was encouraging to see some green shoots for the sector, supporting the Ministry for Primary Industries’ recently released Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries (SOPI) forecast that trade will see a strong recovery in 2025.

“While the China market is still soft, the ability to shift products to other markets such as the US means companies are continuing to extract the best value for product under the current global conditions. 

“The industry’s strong focus on meeting critical market access requirements and customer needs remains key to keeping the door open for New Zealand to the world including the US market. 

“The free on board (FoB) value of beef exports to the US has been steadily increasing this year, from $8.33/kg in January to $10.48/kg in May. This is good news for the industry and our farmers. 

“The increased beef exports to Japan and the UK demonstrate the value of free trade agreements as reduced tariffs improve the competitiveness of our products.”


Sheepmeat exports totalled 39,232 tonnes,  a small one per cent drop on last May, with value down five per cent to $387 million.  

This was mainly due to the decline in exports to China, down by one per cent by volume to 15,499 tonnes and 49 per cent by value to $84 million.

This appears to be due to weak demand rather than an increase in supply from other exporters, as Australian sheepmeat exports to China have also been down over the last three months compared to last year. 

Sheepmeat exports to most other major markets increased, compared to May 2023, with the US up 66 per cent by volume to 3,568 tonnes and 31 per cent by value to $66 million.

Exports to the UK continued to recover, up 40 per cent by volume, to 5,392 tonnes and 34 per cent by value to $51 million.

Exports to the EU were also strong, up 23 per cent by volume to 7,085 tonnes and 15 per cent by value to  $113 million.

The US led the way with the highest FoB value for sheepmeat at $18.39/kg. This was followed by the EU at $15.95/kg, the UK at $9.44/kg and China at $5.43/kg.

While the volume of sheepmeat to China was significantly greater, the higher value achieved in the US saw the two markets relatively close, with China accounting for 22 per cent of sheepmeat exports by value and the US 17 per cent. 


Beef exports totalled 55,498 tonnes worth $524m. The US was the largest market for the month, with the volume up 17 per cent to 24,929 tonnes and 31 per cent by value to $261m. Exports to Canada also continued to grow, up 177 per cent to 2,184 tonnes and 197 per cent to $20 million.

There was also a record monthly volume of beef exported to Japan, totalling 5,533 tonnes, up 164 per cent on last May, with value up 151 per cent to $55 million. Demand is being supported by high tourism numbers to Japan, with inbound visitors topping three million during April.

Volume to China was down 33 per cent to 14,387 tonnes and 45 per cent by volume to $98 million. The EU also accounted for 712 tonnes worth $13.8 million. 

Fifth quarter

Fifth quarter exports increased by six per cent to $198 million for the month. The most significant change from last May was a 174 per cent increase in the value of tallow exports to $30 million. 

Almost 70 per cent of these exports were to Singapore, where tallow is used as an ingredient in bio-fuel manufacturing. These tallow exports also pushed Singapore up into the top 10 overall markets for the month.

For more information, please contact:

Sirma Karapeeva
021 256 5347