While the hills in Central Hawkes Bay remain green, which is remarkable for this time of the year, Porangahau farmer Sam Clark and his wife Gudrun are on the lookout for drought.
That’s a 21%, or $1.2b, increase over the previous year, according to latest export figures from Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ).
The surge in exports came on the back of sustained high value per tonne and increased volume for lamb, mutton, and beef. Veal and co-products weren’t included.
“While the highlights of the season were record high average values per tonne for lamb and mutton, the average value of beef exports remained high since the marked increase in 2014-15,” says B+LNZ’s chief economist Andrew Burtt.
“Good farm-gate prices and strong average values per tonne for exports occurred throughout the season, even during the fast start to the processing season driven by the dry conditions in December 2017.”
Total lamb exports were over $3.1 billion, up 25% on 2016-17 and 28% higher than the five-year average, with the average value of lamb exports staying over $10,000 per tonne for the entire season. While these levels were reached on occasion in 2010-11 and 2011-12, it was not sustained across the entire season.
Total mutton exports benefitted from limited international supply and strong demand to reach $618 million, up 46% on 2016-17.
Increasing demand for sheepmeat from China, particularly mutton, and tight supply from Australia and New Zealand, increased competition for New Zealand’s sheepmeat. Limited international availability of mutton drove improved value for sub-primal cuts of lamb, which began in mid-2016-17, and lifted the overall average value of lamb exports.
In comparison with lamb and mutton, increases in the volume and value of beef exports this season may seem subdued, but total beef exports exceeded $3 billion, up 14% on 2016-17 and up 17 per cent on the five-year average.
The average value of beef exports has remained steady and strong since the 2014-15 season, driven by demand from the United States for lean manufacturing beef.
However, in 2017-18 China overtook the United States as New Zealand’s largest red meat export market by value and volume. China accounted for one-third of New Zealand’s red meat exports as the trend of an increasing share of New Zealand’s beef exports continued, combined with lifts in the share of lamb and mutton exported.
The United States remains New Zealand’s largest beef export market, but the total share of beef decreased two percentage points to 47%.