MLA’s True Aussie Beef and Lamb promotional footage for the US.
HISTORICALLY high imported lamb prices continue to find support in Australia’s largest market – the United States, Meat & Livestock Australia has reported.
International Business Manager for North America Rob Williams said in MLA’s Market News that Easter marks a peak demand period for lamb in the US, reflected in the seasonal increase in slaughter during March and April.
“For the week ending March 17, US lamb slaughter was an estimated 42,000 head, up 21 percent since early February.
“Steiner Consulting Group anticipates slaughter levels in the June quarter to be steady to 1pc lower than in 2017, albeit carcase weights are expected to rise by a similar amount,” he said.
Mr Williams said in terms of prices, the average cut-out value for US domestic lamb in February was US$3.70/lb, 9.4pc higher than year ago levels.
“Lower prices for competing proteins may be a drag on prices in the near future.
“However, lamb prices continue to benefit from higher fed beef values,” he said.
“Throughout the next quarter, prices are expected to remain higher than the five-year average but trade below 2017 levels.”
Imported lamb down
Mr Williams said despite a strong start to the year, total US lamb imports through to March 23 are down almost 3pc compared to 2017, primarily due to a fall in Australian imports.
“Over the same period, New Zealand imports have risen notably, reflecting increased slaughter in late 2017 and early 2018,” he said.
Steiner Consulting Group predicts this trend to reverse during April and May, as New Zealand slaughter falls.
Mr Williams said a positive sign for producers, prices for all imported lamb products remain well above year-ago levels. For the week ending March 19 the price of chilled Australian lamb racks (cap off) was US$9.84/lb, 15pc higher than year ago levels.
Mr Williams said the three main sources of lamb in the US are domestic supply, Australia and New Zealand. Neither the United Kingdom nor Ireland currently send lamb to the US, but are both seeking market access. A small amount comes from Iceland, Chile and Uruguay, he said.
“Imports make up about 70pc of the US sheep meat market (including mutton), and about 60pc of the US lamb market, though US industry figures place it closer to 50pc.
“Australia has about 71pc of the imported lamb component,” he said.
Read the US Sheep meat snapshot for more information on the opportunities and challenges for the industry.