Lamb is back on track while mutton stays local

After three consecutive months of record monthly lamb export volumes, September’s totals fell below last year’s levels and into the 70% average range. Lamb exports for the year to September are now 5% higher than last year after their winter surge, but remain 28% below the record levels set in 2019. The Chinese lamb market has got off to a start year slow, but has been higher than a year ago over the past five months, with September volumes up 20% from the same month in 2020. Lamb exports to China year over year were down 22% year-over-year, but are now 2% higher for the year through September.

Sheep exports for the month of September were down 17% year on year, and total volumes are down 12% for the year to September. China remained the largest market this year, currently taking 40% of all Australian mutton exports, and volumes up 9% for the year to September. However, September itself saw a slowdown in mutton to China, with 35% fewer heads compared to the same month last year. Sheep exports remain tight, mainly due to domestic demand for resupply, and total sheep exports for the year to September are 29% lower than in the same period in 2019. Chinese exports are moving in this direction. , 30% less than in 2019.

Exports to the Middle East have been among the hardest hit by the impacts of Covid-19 over the past 18 months, as freight options have dwindled or stagnated altogether. The Middle Eastern market prefers chilled, unfrozen lamb products, but until recently it also had short shelf life regulations (a number of Middle Eastern markets have now extended this period to 90 days). However, as air freight options have been minimal and global shipments continue to experience significant delays, getting sheepmeat to the Middle East remains an obstacle. Mutton exports to the Middle East are 42% lower for the year to September compared to 2020, and 66% lower from 2019 levels. Lamb is back 36% year-on-year and 62% in 2019 (figure 2 & 3)