SHEEPMEAT industry leader Jeff Murray is keen to turn around a trend of declining export values into China, following bi-partisan support for the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement this week.
Meat and Livestock Australia this week said the value of lamb exports into China for the year to August were back 32 percent to $97.8 million. The value of mutton shipments to China for the period was down 41pc to $68.1 million, compared to the 12 months up to August 2014.
As chairman of the Sheepmeat Council of Australia, Mr Murray said he was particularly heartened by the possibility of relief from China import tariffs as early as December 2015 – a vital measure for maintaining competitiveness.
“We are delighted that agreement could be reached on this issue and there will be no further delays.
“Having the agreement ratified in 2015 will allow us to benefit from a double cut on tariffs – one on entry into force (later in 2015) and the second on January 1 2016,” he said.
“New Zealand sheepmeat products will face zero tariffs on entry into China in 2016, and for Australian sheepmeat to remain competitive, we need the ChAFTA to be effective without delay,” Mr Murray said.
“The economic benefits of the agreement are clear, as are the benefits this unprecedented access to the Chinese market will bring to Australia’s sheepmeat producers.
“The agreement will see the current tariff of 12-25pc on sheepmeat products eliminated over eight years, offal tariffs of 12-25pc eliminated over 5-10 years and tariffs of 5-15pc on skins eliminated over 5-8 years.”
Mr Murray said the ChAFTA’s ratification also kept alive his desire for diversity in markets.
“We need diversity so we don’t get caught relying on one particular market.
“When fully realised, this deal has the potential to boost the total value of Australia’s sheepmeat sector by over $150 million per annum,” he said.
Lamb exports value increases 8pc
Australian lamb export values for August increased 8pc on year-ago levels to $139.6 million FOB, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics. This brings the year-to-August total to $1.2 billion FOB – up 7pc year-on-year and 45pc higher than the five-year average for the period.
Australia’s major lamb export markets registered varying trends for year-to-August values, compared to the same time last year. The United States led the market field, with the value of shipments up 29pc to $360.8 million, followed by China on $97.8 million, although down 32pc, then Japan on $53.6 million, down 7pc, and the United Kingdom at $43.4 million, down 23pc. Lamb export value results into the Middle East were mixed; the UAE, $88.2 million (up 17pc), Jordan, $52.4 million (up 26pc) and Bahrain, $39.4 million (down 29pc).
The average unit value for Australian lamb exports averaged $7.03/kg for the eight month period – up 7pc year-on-year.
Mutton exports value lifts slightly
MLA said Australian mutton export values amounted to $53.7 million in August, up slightly (1pc) year-on-year, with year-to-August returns reaching $468.6 million. Despite the year-to-August total declining 9pc on the corresponding eight months last year, it remained 42pc above the five-year average for the period.
In comparison to the same time last year, year-to-August values to the US were up 17pc to $46.7 million, up 7pc into the UAE at $36.4 million, up 4pc into Saudi Arabia at $52.9 million, down 41pc into China at $68.1 million and up 10pc into Malaysia at $48 million.
Sources: Sheepmeat Council of Australia, MLA.