Asian sheep meat imports fall

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Global sheep meat exports into East Asia during Jan-Sep were down 6% year-on-year, at 361,100 tonnes. The majority of this fall was due to lower shipments into China, with less also shipped into Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam.

Australia and New Zealand continue to be the key suppliers of sheep meat into East Asian markets, although volumes have altered. Australian exports into East Asia between Jan-Sep fell 11% year-on-year to 160,000 tonnes, while New Zealand exports over the same period rose 4% to 185,600 tonnes.

China remains the key East Asian market for sheep meat exports by some margin. Global export data shows that approximately 266,500 tonnes of sheep meat has been sent to China in the year-to-date, 5% less on a year ago. This equates to about 29% of all global sheep meat exports. Australian shipments to China have fallen away in 2020 (-12% Jan-Sep), while New Zealand exports have remained virtually unchanged year-on-year. Reduced foodservice activity, economic uncertainty and an appreciation in the Australian Dollar have all contributed to lower volumes.  

Malaysia is the second-largest East Asian importer of sheep meat, but imports much less than China. From Jan-Aug Malaysia imported 27,900 tonnes of sheep meat, up 15% on a year ago, driven by growth in New Zealand exports. Sheep meat imports into most other key East Asian markets have fallen back year-on-year: Hong Kong by 2%, Japan by 6%, South Korea by 1%, and Singapore by 3%.

Looking ahead

Australia and New Zealand are currently in periods of re-building their national flocks, following severe droughts. As a result, production and exports are expected to be limited in 2021, with a downturn in shipments expected from New Zealand. Meat and Livestock Australia do forecast Australia’s sheep meat output to grow slightly following 2020, however not to the levels seen in previous years. Despite this, post-COVID recovery in global foodservice sectors is expected to be a positive driver of trade.

The main sheep meat importers in East Asia are: China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Hannah Clarke

Analyst - Livestock

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