THE tight Australian sheep and lamb supply situation has been highlighted by the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Meat & Livestock Australia said in its Market News section that the data highlights the considerably reduced lamb and sheep availability in February, compared to the same time last year.
“The number of lambs processed for the month was down 11 percent year-on-year, at 1.8 million head, while sheep slaughter was back 15pc, at 655,595 head.
“Furthermore, compared to the five-year (2011 to 2016) average for the month, the February lamb and mutton kill totals were 2pc and 19pc lower, respectively,” MLA said.
This brought the year-to-date (January and February) lamb slaughter to 3.7 million head (down 5pc year-on-year) and sheep slaughter to 1.3 million head (down 13pc year-on-year).
MLS said heavier lamb and sheep carcases have somewhat offset the impact of lower slaughter.
“As a result, lamb production for the first two months of 2017 amounted to 85,053 tonnes carcase weight (cwt), back 4pc from year-ago levels, while mutton production eased 9pc, to 31,778 tonnes cwt.”
MLA said despite the year-on-year reductions, on-the-ground reports suggest there will be a reasonable supply of lambs through until the end of April, before numbers are anticipated to tighten considerably until August/September, with the new season flush.
In the recently released Sheep Industry Projections April 2017 update, MLA forecast Australian lamb slaughter for this year to be 6pc lower than 2016 levels, at 21.5 million head – largely influenced by strong producer incentives to retain stock.
Export lamb demand still strong
MLA said the volume of lamb that left Australian shores in the March quarter (January to March) was up slightly year-on-year, at 63,690 tonnes shipped weight and 20pc higher than the five-year average (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources), although trends were mixed across the major markets. Lamb export volumes in February and March are typically higher, in line with increased domestic supplies and the lead up to the Easter holiday period.
For the March quarter, compared to last year, Australian lamb shipments to:
The Middle East declined 6pc to 14,824 tonnes
The US declined 6pc to 14,346 tonnes
China lifted 35pc to 12,650 tonnes
Korea doubled to 3733 tonnes
The EU increased 12pc to 3,186 tonnes