New Zealand, the main suppliers of lamb to the EU, has posted lower production figures for February this year.

Recent figures from Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) show that in February, Kiwi lamb production declined by 8% (on the same month a year earlier), with the country producing just 42,156t of lamb.

The southern hemisphere state is a major player in the European sheepmeat market, as it accounted for 80% of the EU’s total sheepmeat imports in 2015.

In total, the EU imports 212,000t of sheepmeat on an annual basis, with New Zealand and Australia accounting for 94% of total import volumes, figures from the European Commission show.

The EU is also an extremely important market for New Zealand sheepmeat producers, as it accounts for almost 50% of the country’s exports.

Why did New Zealand production fall?

According to the MLA, the downward trend in lamb production has been seen across both the North and South islands, with production down by 5% and 10% respectively.

New Zealand lamb production has also declined throughout the season (October-February) – back by 2% on the previous year.

The fall in February production has occurred due to an 11% decline in New Zealand lamb throughput during February. This is a drop of 2.3m head, figures from the MLA show.

In March of this year, Beef and Lamb New Zealand suggested that kiwi lamb exports would fall by 8.1% during the 2015-2016 season.

In its Mid-Season Update, it cites falling carcass weights and a decline in slaughter numbers as the main reasons for the drop.

The New Zealand beef and lamb board also expects the total number of lambs slaughtered to decline by 8%, bringing the New Zealand lamb kill for the 2015-2016 season to 19.6m head.