16 Apr 2015

Record season in offing for beef exports

3:27 pm on 16 April 2015

The latest figures from Beef and Lamb New Zealand which show beef export returns for the first six months of the season, which began in October, reached $1.6 billion.

Higher stakes - beef and lamb outlook improves.

Higher stakes - beef and lamb outlook improves. Photo: SUPPLIED

The returns are 43 percent above those for the previous year.

The average per tonne price for beef is 28 percent higher than a year ago, and shipments were up by 12 percent.

Beef + Lamb chief economist Andrew Burtt said strong demand from the two biggest markets, the United States and China, was driving the increase.

"The US is New Zealand's largest market and there's been a sharp increase in prices there in the last six months or more. It's what's being reflected in the returns to New Zealand as well as a little bit of a strengthening of the US dollar, too, that's had a benefit for New Zealand exporters."

Mr Burtt said beef and veal exports to the US have increased by one-third, while shipments to China were up by about 20 percent.

The statistics painted a different picture for sheepmeat exports, he said, although the value of lamb exports also rose a little, despite less lamb being shipped.

"Lamb prices have increased by about 5 percent, in contrast to beef. The major market for lamb is the EU and the European economies have been performing much more poorly than the US economy.

"That's been reflected somewhat in the subdued nature of exports to the EU, but prices have held up and there's been perhaps somewhat less of an exchange rate effect, too."

Mr Burtt says overall there had been a decline in lamb exports to China, after very strong sales there last year.

He said there had also been a sizeable drop in mutton exports and prices for the first half of the season.

"Mutton exports were down nearly 20 percent compared to last year, but last year was driven substantially by the 2012-13 drought and the large number of ewes slaughtered.

"And then mutton prices have been very flat, pretty much unchanged from what they were for the first six months of last year.

He said less mutton being exported, combined with a flat price, meant a decrease in revenue for New Zealand.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs