CHINA - Chinese imports of sheep meat have fallen in the first quarter of 2015, as demand slows after years of surging imports.
In the first three months of 2015 Chinese imports of sheep meat fell by 20 per cent, compared to the same period last year to just 65,600 tonnes, with large falls from all major suppliers to China.
Import demand in China is reported to have slowed as prices have become high, relative to domestic product.
Chinese production is also understood to be expanding while demand has been low. This has resulted in high inventories of lamb in China.
Shipments from New Zealand, the largest exporter of sheep meat to China, fell 19 per cent to 39,400 tonnes.
Volumes from the other major suppliers to China, Australia and Uruguay, also fell by 17 per cent and 71 per cent respectively.
Despite volumes from both Australia and New Zealand being lower, both of their share of the total Chinese import market grew due to the sharper fall in Uruguayan shipments.
Demand for carcases of both sheep and lambs saw the steepest falls, following the large increase in carcase imports in 2014. Shipments of sheep and lamb carcases both fell 75 per cent to 2,700 tonnes and 980 tonnes respectively.
While imports of whole carcases fell sharply, shipments of bone-in cuts fell less dramatically, down only seven per cent at 60,000 tonnes.
This could illustrate that Chinese demand is reverting back to cheaper cuts than using the full carcase, which could be a result of its slowing economic growth.
The sharper falls in imports were seen in the first two months of the year, with shipments in March only falling five per cent to 29,300 tonnes.
Decreases in exports is especially telling about the level of Chinese demand as the average unit value of shipments has also fallen five per cent in local currency terms (actually an increase of one per cent in sterling terms).
The sharper falls in unit price were seen in March, falling nine per cent as increased volumes of New Zealand product were on the market following the earlier than normal slaughterings there as a result of drought.
With a sharp fall in import volumes and a lower average unit price in local currency terms this has led to the value of sheep meat imported to China in the first three months of 2015 falling 24 per cent to RMB 1.5 billion.
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