May lamb shipments totalling 19,845 tonnes bring the calendar year-to-date total to 98,302 tonnes, according to Department of Agriculture figures.
MLA said despite reportedly high cold storage sheepmeat stocks in the key export markets of the US and China, higher than anticipated Australian lamb slaughter and the weak A$ underpinned stronger lamb exports in early 2015.
However, the A$ experienced a short-lived rise in mid-May, rallying to US81 cents, and National Livestock Reporting Service average weekly eastern states lamb slaughter during May was back 4pc year-on-year, to 350,870 head.
Middle East still Australia’s top lamb market
The Middle East continued as Australia’s top lamb export market, taking 5,933 tonnes in May, up 13pc year-on-year, and 4422 tonnes of lamb were exported to the US, up 18pc. China maintained its position as the third largest market, although shipments were back 35pc on the same period last year at 2512 tonnes.
Lamb exports to Papua New Guinea rose 87pc compared to the same time last year, to 1180 tonnes. Shipments to South East Asia were 34pc higher than year-ago levels, at 1164 tonnes, but tonnage to the EU was back 45pc to 745 tonnes.
Whole carcases still most popular
Due to the continued strong demand from the Middle East, the most popular cut exported in May was whole carcase, up 21pc to 5392 tonnes. Breast and flap ranked second highest, largely demanded by Asian markets, but was back 10pc to 3443 tonnes. Rounding out the top four cuts were shoulders and legs, with these also easing marginally in May compared to last year.
Mutton exports slower in May
Following high turnoff in 2013 and 2014, tight mutton supplies have been evident so far this year, with the past consecutive five months registering lower average weekly slaughter than year-ago levels, MLA said.
In May, eastern states mutton slaughter, reported by MLA’s NLRS, averaged 89,268 head per week – 37pc lower than the corresponding month last year. Shorter supplies were registered across all of the eastern states during the month, with the average weekly kill back 50pc in NSW, 28pc in Victoria and down 36pc in SA. Weekly mutton slaughter was also 24pc lower in Queensland and down by 43pc in Tasmania, compared to the same time last year.
MLA said this meant that Australian mutton exports during May declined 17pc year-on-year, at 10,808 tonnes, though this was still 9pc above the five-year monthly average of 9938 tonnes.
Mutton demand strongest in the Middle East
Demand for mutton from the Middle East remained strong in May, with exports up 19pc at 4414 tonnes. Shipments to South East Asia were down 8pc to 2083 tonnes and 54pc lower to China at 1535 tonnes. But tonnages to Mexico almost tripled year-ago levels, to 364 tonnes, while exports to the US more than halved to 329 tonnes.
Goat exports slow as prices hit record levels
Eastern states average weekly goat slaughter during May dropped 43pc to 22,082 head, the lowest level since March 2012, the MLA’s NLRS said.
The tightening in supply was felt across most states, following sustained higher turnoff over the last two years. NSW weekly slaughter was similar year-on-year, at 2498 head, but average weekly slaughter declined in other states – down 45pc in SA to 3883; down 48pc in Queensland to 9685 and 48pc lower in Victoria to 6015. Reports of some processors taking their annual maintenance shutdowns earlier than usual has also contributed to the lower slaughter during the month, MLA said.
These tighter supplies have assisted to keep goat prices at record levels, with 12-16kg cwt goats during May averaging 416¢, up 46pc year-on-year.
Despite the lower A$, Australian goat meat exports during May dropped 44pc to 1764 tonnes – the lowest volume since June 2013, according to the Department of Agriculture. Shipments to the US were 984 tonnes, down 40pc, while volumes lifted 23pc to 176 tonnes in Trinidad, by 27pc to 81 tonnes to Tobago and Canada. Exports to Hong Kong eased 68pc, to 213 tonnes.
Sources: MLA, NLRS, Department of Agriculture.