A RISE in sheep slaughter in August and strong overseas demand has lifted mutton exports by more than 50 percent from year-ago levels, Meat & Livestock Australia has reported.
Average weekly eastern states sheep slaughter lifted 22pc year-on-year, to just over 103,100 head, while the number processed in WA each week averaged more than 34,600 head – 55pc higher than the same time last year.
MLA said as a result, Australian mutton shipments in August jumped 51pc from year-ago levels, to 11,846 tonnes. Furthermore, this was the first month since May 2016 that mutton exports have exceeded the five-year average, doing so by 25pc.
The increase was spread across all key export destinations during the month. Compared to the corresponding period last year, volumes to:
- the Middle East were up 29pc to 3567 tonnes
- South East Asia increased 17pc to 2124 tonnes
- China doubled, at 1967 tonnes
- the US tripled, at 1070 tonnes
- the EU increased 33pc to 706 tonnes
MLA said a number of comparatively smaller volume markets also recorded considerable growth in August:
- Japan almost doubled to 308 tonnes
- Hong Kong went from close to no exports in August last year, to 252 tonnes, and
- Mexico increased almost three-fold, to 250 tonnes.
For the year-to-date, however, total mutton exports are still tracking behind last year, due to lower shipment volumes in the first five months of 2017, MLA said. For the January to August period, Australian mutton shipments totalled 83,423 tonnes – down 4pc from year-ago levels.
As discussed in the Australian Sheep Projections August Update, the lift in mutton slaughter (and in turn, production and exports) is likely being driven by the ewes and wethers that were retained this year and last, now coming back through the system, MLA said.
For more detailed trade statistics, view MLA’s monthly sheepmeat export summary.