Australian beef exports fell back 27% in April compared to March but were 17% above April 2022 levels at 72,064 tonnes.
Interestingly, strong growth was recorded in Australia’s largest export markets, but fell back in smaller markets. Exports to:
China rose by 42% year-on-year to 16,745 tonnes
Japan rose by 10% year-on-year to 15,225 tonnes
South Korea rose by 27% year-on-year to 13,586 tonnes
US rose by 26% year-on-year to 12,547 tonnes
Indonesia rose by 14% year-on-year to 4,066 tonnes
All other markets fell by 17% year-on-year to 9,896 tonnes.
Grassfed exports rose slightly more than grainfed exports, which is to be expected given the uptick in supply overall, and frozen exports rose considerably more than chilled exports, though both did increase.
The pattern of ‘increased exports to major markets; decline in emerging markets’ is not consistent with exports from January–March. The shorter month may have impacted the number of available ships for export, but the May data release will determine if this pattern is consistent or an aberration.
Australian sheepmeat exports remained strong, improving on record-breaking 2022 numbers. Lamb exports increased by 2% year-on-year to 22,222 tonnes, while mutton exports rose by a massive 48% to 15,772 tonnes.
Lamb exports saw large increases to China, the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) and South Korea, and a considerable decline to the United States (US).
Similar patterns were evident in mutton exports, where large increases to China, South-East Asia and MENA were partially offset due to declines in the US, though not nearly to the extent seen in lamb exports.
Mutton exports to China nearly doubled to 7,493 tonnes, while exports to South-East Asia rose by 7% to 2,638 tonnes and exports to MENA rose by 31% to 2,403 tonnes.
The increase in mutton exports to China was the largest in absolute terms, but the largest increase in relative terms was to Mexico, which recorded a 992% increase year-on-year to 524 tonnes, making it the eighth-largest mutton market for the month.
Interestingly, strong increases in exports to China across the board mean that it is the largest single export destination for beef, lamb, mutton and goat. This is unprecedented – normally, the largest market for beef would be different to the largest market for lamb.
The huge demand for protein in China is important for the global market, and particularly for Australian producers as it increases demand globally and drives up the export price.
As mentioned in the cattle and sheep projections released earlier in the year, processor capacity is the relevant factor in determining production in 2023, given the increase in animals on-farm. Assuming processor capacity keeps up, demand from China will be important in supporting prices at the farm gate.