Red meat sector faces headwinds in global markets

29 June 2023 – New Zealand exported red meat products worth $1.1 billion during May, one per cent less than the same period in 2022, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said while there were potential signs of green shoots in some key markets, global prices continued to be under pressure and other markets remained subdued in the face of significant economic challenges.

“There was an increase in the value of exports to our two largest markets compared to last May, with exports to China up eight per cent to $414m and exports to the US up 34 per cent to $284m,” said Ms Karapeeva

“Exports of both sheepmeat and beef to China were strong, and, while exports of sheepmeat to the US were down, there was a large increase in beef exports. However, exports to most of the other major markets reduced compared to May last year.”

Red meat exports to the UK fell 44 per cent to $41m, while Japan was down 39 per cent to $37m and Korea by 31 per cent to $23m.


Overall beef export volumes increased by 20 per cent compared to last May to 53,709 tonnes, with value up five per cent to $492m. This was the largest overall monthly export volume since March 2015 when New Zealand was experiencing widespread drought.

The biggest increase was in exports to the United States, with volume up 97 per cent to 21,430 tonnes and value up 71 per cent to $200m. This was also the largest monthly volume of exports to the US since June 2020, and the firsttime monthly beef exports to the US had reached $200m.

Factors contributing to this may include the relatively slow start to New Zealand beef processing in 2023, with fewer cattle processed in January and February compared to last year but higher numbers during March and April.

Drought in the US is also starting to ease in some regions. However, it may still be some time before there is widespread restocking and any significant reduction in the domestic US beef supply.

Beef export volumes to China also rose 11 per cent to 22,238 tonnes compared to May 2023 but the value was down by seven per cent to $186m.

Ms Karapeeva said it was important to be cautious with the Chinese market as Brazilian exports recovered to 100,000 tonnes during May following the country’s BSE-related suspension. Argentinian beef exports have also increased this year in response to drought and the devaluation of the peso. There have also been unofficial reports of large volumes of beef remaining in cold storage in China.

Japanese and Korean consumers continued to be cautious in the face of economic difficulties. Beef exports to Japan were down by 49 per cent to $22m, and Korea by 39 per cent to $14m.


Sheepmeat exports remained relatively steady, with some fluctuations in key markets. Overall volume was up by 11 per cent to 39,683 tonnes but value was down 10 per cent to $411m. However, the May 2023 result was still above the five year average. 

Sheepmeat exports of 22,890 tonnes to China, worth $166m, were also in line with previous May volumes and values. Export to the EU were steady at 5,746 tonnes, worth $98m.

Volumes to the UK were down 28 per cent by volume, to 3,856 tonnes, and 44 per cent by value, to $38m. However, the figures mostly reflect a decline from relatively high value and volume exports to the UK in May 2022.

Sheepmeat to the US remained subdued with the volume down 20 per cent to 2,151 tonnes and  value down 17 per cent to $50m.

Fifth quarters

Fifth quarter exports were steady, up two per cent to $188m. The largest category, casings and tripe, was down nine per cent to $41m. However, there was a five per cent increase in offals to $38m and a large 94 per cent increase in blood products exports to $29m.