Record lamb and mutton receipts and second highest for beef for December quarter

Andrew Burtt
Andrew Burtt, B+LNZ chief economist.

A great start for the 2017-2018 red meat export season. Red meat export receipts reached a record high for the December quarter, according to an analysis by the Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s (B+LNZ) Economic Service.

The record was driven by high export volumes and average Free-on-Board (FOB) per tonne at record values for lamb and mutton, and near record values for beef, while the New Zealand dollar (NZD) has remained relatively strong.

October to December 2017 – New Zealand’s beef and veal, lamb and mutton exports. Source: B+LNZ Economic Service.

Andrew Burtt, B+LNZ chief economist, says lamb and mutton farm-gate prices were up 30 percent and 59 percent respectively for the first quarter of the season (October-December 2017) compared to the previous season. Cattle prices were relatively steady – up five percent.

“Average value per tonne for exports started at a high level after strong growth during the 2016-17 season and have remained strong despite higher processing volumes so far in 2017-18.

“Dry conditions led to an increase in New Zealand sheepmeat, cow and bull production over the first quarter compared with the same quarter in 2016-17, but similar to production in 2015-16.

“The 2016-17 season started slowly due to generally wetter and cooler weather and livestock were harder to finish, but good pasture availability reduced pressure on farmers to sell.”

While production was high in the first quarter of the 2017-18 season, in its 2017-18 New Season Outlook, B+LNZ’s Economic Service forecast that lamb and beef production would be about the same as in 2016-17, but mutton production would be down 9.1 percent, he says.

Beef: strong rise in export receipts boosted by large shipments

New Zealand beef and veal exports generated $588 million in the first quarter of the 2017-18 season, up 29 percent compared with the same period last season and the second highest on record for the December quarter – only behind the 2015-16 season.

This reflected a 21 percent increase in shipments to 78,900 tonnes, again, only just behind the December quarter of 2015, says Burtt.

“Export beef production over the 2017-18 season is forecast down marginally – by 0.9%. The higher shipments of beef in the December quarter are due to a faster start to the production season rather than an increase in production over the entire season.”

In the 2017-18 New Season Outlook, the total number of cattle available for slaughter was forecast to be even with the 2016-17 season.

The average value per tonne increased 6.3 percent in the first quarter and was the third highest behind 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The US took 43 percent of total beef export volume and remained the largest market for New Zealand beef – up 27 percent. The average value increased 11 percent to $6,760 per tonne to receipt $231 million by value.

The majority of exports to the US (88 percent) were cuts intended for processing, which is complementary to US production as lean New Zealand beef is often used to blend with US beef.

Beef exports to China – the second largest market (22%) – were up 53 percent by volume to 17,300 tonnes for the December quarter, which drove the value of exports to $127 million – up 56 percent. The average value per tonne was up 2.3 percent to $7,340. Bone-in and boneless cuts were 82 percent of the exports to China and 18 percent were cuts intended for processing.

Lamb: shipments up and record average value per tonne

The analysis shows New Zealand lamb export receipts reached a record high of $677 million from October to December 2017, up 47 percent on the same period in 2016.

The average FOB value in this December quarter equalled the record set in the December quarter of 2011 at $10,460 per tonne – up 22 percent.

This reflected a 21 percent increase in shipments to 64,700 tonnes. Again, the higher shipments of lamb are due to a faster start to the export production season rather than an increase in the season’s production.

B+LNZ’s Economic Service forecast is for lamb production over the entire season to be the same as the previous season.

“Demand from China was particularly strong with export receipts up 114 percent to $164 million,” said Mr Burtt.

“The large increase in receipts from China was driven by a 31 percent increase in the FOB value per tonne and exports volume up 64 percent (9,300 tonnes) to 23,800 tonnes. The increase across all New Zealand lamb export markets in the December quarter was 11,000 tonnes. Over 90 percent of the lamb exports to China were bone-in cuts.”

Mutton:  shipments boosted by a lift in production

Mutton export receipts reached a record high of $146 million in the first quarter of the 2017-18 season – up 93 percent – driven by strong increases in volume and average value per tonne. Previously, the record was $96 million in 2015.

The volume of mutton exports was up sharply in the December quarter – by 46 percent — but total mutton production is forecast to be down 9.1% for 2017-18.

Burtt says: “This was the highest volume of mutton exported since subsidies were removed in the mid-1980s. The average value per tonne was a record $6,680, up 32 percent on the same period in the previous season.”

The increase of average value per tonne was spread across the major markets but there was a major increase in volume to China.

The volume across all markets was up 6,900 tonnes but up 10,700 tonnes to China (+168 percent). The combination of high volume and value increased mutton receipts from China by 276 percent to $106 million, or 73 percent of total mutton receipts in the December quarter of 2017. Over 60 percent of mutton exports to China were bone-in cuts.

B+LNZ’s Economic Service will review its farm-gate price forecasts in the 2017-18 Mid-Season Update report to be published in March.

* FOB is the total value at export, including processing, packaging and transport of the goods within New Zealand.

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