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Sheep and Lamb Slaughter Still High

08 April 2013
Meat & Livestock Australia

AUSTRALIA - Average eastern states weekly lamb slaughter in Australia for the last five weeks to the end of March, as collected by MLA’s National Livestock Reporting Service, was approximately 330,000 head, a six per cent rise compared to the corresponding period last year.

Meat and Livestock Australia says that this number would have likely been higher but was interrupted at the end of the month by the Easter break.

Eastern states yardings in the physical markets for March increased 12 per cent year-on-year. An increase in Victorian physical markets was the main contributor to this throughput trend.

For the same period, eastern states sheep slaughter was up 87 per cent on last year. Both Victoria (up 64 per cent) and SA (up 86 per cent) had over notable increases in sheep slaughter numbers year-on-year while NSW had an increase of 141 per cent.

This rise in slaughter and throughput compared to last year was mainly due to dry conditions and feed shortages throughout most regions, resulting in a large supply of slaughter sheep. The high kill so far this year is likely to lead to a noticeable tightening in stock availability in coming months.

Lamb Exports to US Ease - China and Middle East Surge

Total Australian lamb exports were back 13 per cent on February exports, and also down slightly by four per cent on March last year, to stand at 15,303 tonnes swt in March 2013, MLA says.

This was mainly on the back of large declines in the volume of product being shipped to the US (-27 per cent on March 2012 and -36 per cent on last month), as importers took advantage of low prices in January and February to fill orders before Easter. Much of the leftover product is presumed to still be in storage or sold on the domestic market.

The reduction in export volumes to the US was counteracted by large increases in the other established export markets in the Middle East and China.

China was the largest single export volume destination in March, at 2,711 tonnes swt, back 21 per cent on record volumes recorded in February, but still up 13 per cent on March last year. While the product tends to be relatively cheap, it continues to flow in large quantities.

Shipments to the Middle East also increased significantly (up 28 per cent, to 4,755 tonnes swt) on volumes recorded in March last year – driven by exports to Bahrain of 1,023 tonnes swt (up 1157 per cent on March 2012), to recently become a major lamb export destination in the Middle East. The UAE remained the largest lamb destination in the region, increasing 17 per cent on last month and 32 per cent on March last year to stand at 1,368 tonnes swt.

Mutton Exports Remain Strong

Analysts at Meat and Livestock Australia report that total mutton exports have had a strong start to the year, with March volumes up significantly (63 per cent) on March 2012, to stand at 13,234 tonnes swt.

This was mainly due to the ongoing large slaughter numbers of sheep, on the back of dry conditions throughout major production regions over the past five months, MLA says.

In response, increased product availability prompted importers to pick up mutton at cheaper prices, resulting in noticeable increases in export volumes to most mutton markets.

China continued to demand product in bulk, with the export volume of mutton reaching 3,401 tonnes swt in March, a massive increase of 554 per cent on March last year.

Similarly, the US and Malaysia continued to demand mutton in large volumes to sit at 1,305 and 1,021 tonnes swt in March, up 273 per cent and 84 per cent, respectively, compared to last year.

The Middle East remains the dominant export destination for Australian mutton, increasing 2 per cent on last March, to 3,891 tonnes swt, driven by rises of 11 per cent for Saudi Arabia, to 1,453 tonnes swt, and 36 per cent to the UAE, to 1,063 tonnes swt.

There were also large increases in volumes shipped to smaller markets, with the Caribbean and Mexico increasing volumes by 1223 per cent and 439 per cent on March last year, to reach 412 tonnes swt and 445 tonnes swt, respectively.

TheMeatSite News Desk

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