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New Zealand Sees Exports to China Grow

15 November 2013

NEW ZEALAND – New Zealand has seen exports of beef and lamb to China grow rapidly over the last year from less than one per cent of total volume in 2010–11, to 10 per cent in 2012–13.

However, a new report from Beef + Lamb New Zealand shows that traditional markets remain the dominant source of revenue for New Zealand sheep and beef farmers.

The significant growth to China reflects:

  • its growing strategic importance to the New Zealand red meat sector
  • the importance of high quality access to the market, such as that provided by New Zealand’s free trade agreement
  • the risks posed by disruptions to the trade, as experienced in 2013

The EU and US remain New Zealand’s largest meat markets overall, with the EU accounting for 40 per cent of lamb exports and the US accounting for 48 per cent of beef exports.

Sheep Meat

In 2012–13, China became New Zealand’s largest single lamb market and largest single mutton market – and, therefore, the largest single sheep meat market – importing 131,000 tonnes, compared with 74,000 tonnes into Great Britain.
China accounted for 28 per cent of lamb exports, 52 per cent of mutton exports and 33 per of sheep meat (lamb and mutton).
Though increasing, the average value of lamb exports to China trails well behind returns achieved from EU markets. The average value received from China was NZ$4,800 FOB per tonne, compared with NZ$9,000 per tonne from the EU and NZ$11,500 from the US.
This reflects the product mix exported to the different countries. Exports to developed markets include a higher proportion of cuts that are case ready. Cuts exported to China will generally be further processed before being consumed.


In 2012–13, total New Zealand lamb exports increased by 18 per cent to 313,000 tonnes shipped weight, influenced by an earlier processing and exporting pattern than in 2011–12.
The increase in volume was offset by a 16 per cent decrease in average value, resulting in total value of lamb exports falling marginally – 0.9 per cent – to NZ$2.3b FOB.
The EU remained New Zealand’s largest market region by volume, accounting for 40 per cent of exports.
North Asia, the next largest market region, accounted for 32 per cent of exports, up sharply from 24 per cent in the previous year and 17 per cent in 2009–10.
All but a tiny proportion of New Zealand’s lamb exports are processed beyond carcass form:

  • 98 per cent of total New Zealand lamb exports were in bone–in or boneless cut form, with just 2 per cent exported as carcasses
  • 99 per cent of chilled lamb exports were bone–in or boneless cut

Chilled lamb exports of 72,500 tonnes shipped weight remain just under 25 per cent of New Zealand’s total lamb exports, with the majority of chilled lamb (more than 70 per cent) being exported to the EU.
The average value of chilled lamb fell 22 per cent to NZ$10,340 FOB per tonne, compared with a 19 per cent decrease in the average value of frozen lamb exports – to NZ$8,030 per tonne.


A majority of New Zealand’s mutton exports now goes to China. In 2012–13, 52 per cent of New Zealand’s mutton exports were to China, with the next largest market being the UK, at 8 per cent.

Beef and Veal

While beef and veal exports to China have grown rapidly, the US remains New Zealand’s largest beef and veal market by a significant margin. Beef and veal exports to the US accounted for 48 per cent of total beef and veal exports in 2012–13. The average return received from China and the US for beef and veal was similar, at about NZ$5300 FOB per tonne.
In 2012–13, total exports of beef and veal increased 4.6 per cent to 367,000 tonnes shipped weight, as a result of increased production from cull dairy cows carried over into the 2012–13 season and the impact of drought conditions.
The total value of beef and veal exports increased two per cent to NZ$2.1b FOB.
Overall, receipts for beef and veal exports averaged NZ$5800 FOB per tonne, down 2.4 per cent on 2011–12 and reflecting the impact of the relatively strong New Zealand dollar.
North America accounted for 52 per cent of beef export volume and 48 per cent of export value – the same levels as in 2011–12. Shipments to North America are dominated by beef used in further processing.
Exports to the US increased 11 per cent to 175,000 tonnes worth NZ$933b FOB.
Exports to Canada dropped sharply – by 27 per cent.
North Asia, the next largest market accounted for 31 per cent of both volume and value for 2012–13, up from 26 per cent a year earlier. Within this, China and Hong Kong combined accounted for 11 per cent in 2012–13, after representing just four per cent of New Zealand beef and veal exports in 2011–12 and around 1 per cent in prior seasons.
Exports to China increased nearly six–fold, from around 6300 tonnes in 2011–12 to more than 36,000 tonnes in 2012–13. The average value of exports to China increased 15 per cent to the same level as received from the US.

Analysis of Exports to TPP and Non-TPP Countries

As New Zealand and its partner countries continue negotiations of the Trans–Pacific Partnership Agreement, it is interesting to consider the importance of these markets to New Zealand.

Exports of total lamb, mutton and beef and veal to countries that are TPP members make up:

  • 37 per cent of total volume and 35 per cent of FOB value
  • 61 per cent of beef and veal volume (i.e. three out of every five kilograms of beef exported goes to a TPP country, dominated by the US)
  • 13 per cent of lamb and 13 per cent of combined lamb and mutton by volume, while 16 per cent by value

Total exports of lamb, mutton and beef and veal to non-TPP countries accounted for 19 per cent of lamb value, 46 per cent of mutton value, 23 per cent of sheep meat value, and 9 per cent of beef and veal value.
This trade is dominated by China, which accounted for:

  • 28 per cent of lamb volume
  • 52 per cent of mutton volume
  • 33 per cent of sheep meat
  • 9 per cent of beef and veal volume so far


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