New Zealand's meat export industry has experienced a decline in both meat value and volumes in the last few months. While this has raised concerns about the significance of the trend, experts are still cautious and are watching the situation closely.
Jason Kropp, the Manager of Strategy and Advocacy at the Meat Industry Association, said that while the decline in exports has been ongoing for the last three months, the level of decline from January to March has eased somewhat. He noted that consumers across the world have become increasingly conservative in their spending as the economy tightens, and this is one of the reasons behind the decline.
Kropp added that it is still too early to call it a trend, and the moderation of the declines is due to last year's record prices. He believes that the current figures are likely dragging the industry back to more average prices.
The situation in China, one of New Zealand's biggest meat export markets, has been a bright spot. While the country had a bumpy entry into the market after emerging from Zero-Covid, the volume and value of meat exports to China have picked up. However, Chinese consumers are also being cautious in their spending.
According to the latest figures, meat exports in March dropped 4% to NZD 1.1 billion compared to the same time last year. The value of sheep meat and beef have also come down by 8% off last year's high levels. The global economic challenges have been cited as one of the key factors behind this decline.
Despite the short-term challenges, experts remain optimistic about the long-term outlook for the meat export industry. Demand for beef is positive and correlated to economic growth. Long-term economic growth forecasts are also positive, which is reassuring for the industry.
However, the short-term decline in exports will add pressure to farmers and the processing industry. The industry will be monitoring the situation closely to determine if the decline in exports is a blip or a more significant trend.