MLA said that during April, Australian mutton exports totalled 12,253 tonnes – down 18 percent on the corresponding month last year, with almost all major markets registering a decline (Department of Agriculture).
MLA market information manager Ben Thomas said the mutton exports have followed the decline in mutton slaughter of around 20pc on 2014 figures during the month, with Australia still exporting about 95pc of mutton production.
“We are sending as much as we can overseas.
“With slaughter being back about 20pc, so too are exports.”
Mutton tonnages still historically high
Despite the lower shipments, however, mutton exports still remained 27pc above the five-year average for the month of 9661 tonnes, MLA said. The majority of Australian mutton exports continued to be frozen, with 12,067 tonnes shipped in April, while chilled volumes remained low, at 186 tonnes.
MLA said mutton shipments to the Middle East were back 14pc on April last year, at 4384 tonnes. Volumes to China continued to slow, with 2622 tonnes of mutton exported for the month, back 22pc year-on-year. Shipments to South East Asia declined 16pc, to 1933 tonnes.
The US took 773 tonnes of Australian mutton in April, MLA said, back 24pc on the corresponding period last year. Shipments to Taiwan were 18pc lower, at 405 tonnes.
Exports to the EU were the exception and continued to increase, more than doubling on the same time last year, to total 278 tonnes in April.
Middle East sheepmeat shipments down
MLA said Australia’s lamb and mutton exports to the Middle East in April similar pattern to eastern states lamb and sheep slaughter figures.
Lamb exports to what is Australia’s largest sheepmeat market were 17 percent higher than April last year, but 10pc lower than March. Mutton exports to the region were 14pc lower than last year, and 27pc lower than March (Department of Agriculture figures).
MLA said while there have been reports that lamb and mutton has been relatively slow moving in a number of export markets, volumes being shipped have maintained strength so far this year – including to the Middle East. After four months in 2015, lamb exports had reached 21,950 tonnes and mutton 19,453 tonnes.
The UAE maintained its position as the largest lamb market in the region, while there was also good growth to Jordan and Qatar during April, MLA said. Shipments to Bahrain remained low, continuing the trend seen so far throughout 2015, with the high cost of air freighting chilled carcases acting as a brake on this trade.
MLA said mutton exports were constrained by the declining sheep kill, which is likely to become even tighter in coming months. The mutton trade to the Middle East is dominated by exports to four key markets – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman and Kuwait.