Export Lamb

Lamb outlook strong as exports head for record 2014

Sheep Central, August 4, 2014

The outlook for the Australian lamb industry continues to look positive, with producer confidence built on strong export demand and a robust Australian market, according to Meat & Livestock Australia’s (MLA) 2014 sheep industry projections mid-year update. 

MLA Manager for Market Information and Analysis Tim McRae, said Australian lamb exports were forecast to set a new calendar year record in 2014, reaching 218,000 tonnes swt – up 2pc on the previous record set in 2013. 

“Lamb is expected to maintain its favourable position with the Australian consumer while globally, demand from the US, China and the Middle East remains strong, making up 66pc of total exports,” said Mr McRae. 

“In 2014 Australian lamb exports to the Middle East are on track to reach 61,000 tonnes swt, and lamb exports to the US are forecast to grow 8pc, to 42,500 tonnes swt – the highest annual total to the US since 2007. 

“China will continue to play an important role for Australian sheepmeat, both in volume and value, with Australian lamb exports consistently remaining above year-ago levels during the first six months of the year and forecast to be 1% higher on the record 2013 volume, at 40,000 tonnes swt.”

Mutton shipments overall are forecast to decline 7pc in 2014, to 160,000 tonnes swt. 

Mr McRae said Australian live sheep exports were forecast to reach 2.3 million head in 2014, up 16.6% on the 1.973 million head exported in 2013. 

“The steady recovery in live export demand is underpinned by the reopening of potentially large markets, especially in the Middle East, and these recent market access improvements should see live sheep export numbers continue to increase through to 2020,” he said.

On the domestic front, the Australian sheep flock was forecast to commence rebuilding following two years of drought-induced higher sheep turnoff and tighter lamb numbers. At June 2014, it was estimated at 72.2 million head – a 2.7pc decline from the preceding 12 months, but Mr McRae said given the underlying confidence through the lamb industry, it was expected the flock would again increase towards 75 million head from 2015.

“The Australian sheep flock grew to 74.7 million head by 2012, but since then, the overall flock has declined primarily due to the higher sheep slaughter for the 2013-14 fiscal year – the result of drought conditions across many regions,” said Mr McRae.

“While drought conditions in northern and western NSW and Queensland will continue to impact flock numbers, survey results indicate plans for expansion, with 27pc of producers intending to increase their ewe flock size in 2015 – up 31% year-on-year.” 

The lamb slaughter in 2014 is expected to be down 3% on the 2013 record high of 21.9 million head, and decline again in 2015, to 20.7 million head. 

Source: MLA

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