Sheepmeat exports in New Zealand and Australia have seen a decline in exports in the first quarter of 2015 which is largely due to demand rather than supply developments, EBLEX, the English beef and sheep industry organisation says.

It says that this was mainly the result of lower demand from China, the largest global importer. The mutton trade has been particularly disappointing however this was partly the result of lower production, according to EBLEX.

It says that New Zealand found it difficult to pass on any price increases, especially for lamb, although this was not the case for Australia.

Total sheep meat exports from New Zealand were down 8% in the first three months of the year at 131,600 tonnes, while the production decline amounted to just 4%.

Exports to China were down by as much as 24% but exports to the EU were up 11%, even though trade was not helped by the depreciation of the euro, EBLEX says.

Mutton exports in New Zealand fell 24% to 33,800t and there was a reduction of 36% in shipments to China, New Zealand's largest market.

Lamb exports however, according to EBLEX only declined by 1% bringing total exports to 97,800t and it says a 12% fall to China was largely offset by a 10% increase to the EU.


Sheepmeat exports in Australia fell by 5% to 106,100t with much of the decline due to falls in exports of mutton, particularly to China.

EBLEX says Australian mutton shipments were down 15% to 45,900 tonnes, with shipments to China falling by almost a third.

It says eventually stocks in New Zealand and Australia should reduce, given the seasonal decline in production and, hence, export availability in both countries.

The production downturn is expected to start in the second quarter of the year and be larger than in previous years, it says.