Subdued start to year for red meat exports

8 March 2023 – New Zealand’s red meat sector exports had a slow start to the year with total export values down by seven per cent compared to January 2022, according to an analysis by the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

Overall, red meat exports for the month were worth $858 million with a drop in export values to most major markets including China ($344m), down 10 per cent, followed by the US ($177m), down six per cent, Japan ($31m), down 22 per cent, and the UK ($30m), down 26 per cent.

MIA Chief Executive Sirma Karapeeva said China continued to be the meat industry’s largest market in January, with exports worth $344m, which represented 40 per cent of total red meat and co-products for the month.

“China was New Zealand’s largest sheepmeat market worth $141m, and beef market at $149m.

“While the value of sheepmeat exports to China was down compared to last January, in general, sheepmeat exports to China have been down recently compared to the very high levels we saw a couple of years ago when African Swine Fever sharply spurred demand for other protein products.”

Despite the drop in overall value, the total volumes of red meat exports to all countries increased compared to January 2022.

For sheepmeat, a total of 36,496 tonnes was exported globally, an increase of 18 per cent by volume but a drop in value of five per cent to $343m in January 2022.

The volume of beef exports was unchanged at 42,124 tonnes, but there was a drop in value of 11 per cent to $358m compared to January 2022. However, this this still represented the second highest export value for a January month.

“Beef exports were exceptionally good throughout 2022, and the drop in exports in January may partly be due to some uncertainty caused by the rapid change in China’s Covid-19 policies in mid-December,” said Ms Karapeeva.

“We are hopeful the relaxation of the movement controls will lead to an increase in consumer demand.”

While there was an overall drop by volume and value of beef exports to the major North Asian markets (China, Japan, Korea), export volumes to the US rose by 12 per cent to 14,320 tonnes, though the value decreased (down 6 per cent to $116m).

On a positive note, there was a small increase in fifth quarter exports, which were up one per cent to $157m for the month.