New Zealand's red meat sector has witnessed a significant evolution in its export patterns, with July's export value totalling $807 million, according to the Meat Industry Association (MIA).
This figure marks a 24 per cent decrease compared to the remarkable performance of July 2022, which saw record-breaking red meat exports valued at $1.1 billion.
MIA's Chief Executive, Sirma Karapeeva, provided insightful perspectives on this unfolding scenario.
"This big drop is a short-term impact from the very high export volumes last July, which were largely a result of COVID-related disruptions in the first quarter," she said.
The surge in exports during the preceding year, attributed to pandemic-induced disruptions, led to a notable 33 per cent increase in sheepmeat exports—a peak not observed since 2008.
However, Karapeeva underlined the importance of contextualizing these fluctuations.
"While this July’s drop in sheepmeat was largely due to short-term factors, overall, we are also seeing a long-term trend for a reduction in the volume of sheepmeat exports and an increase in beef exports."
This trend stems from changes in livestock demographics, marked by a decline in the sheep flock and a simultaneous rise in cattle numbers for both beef and dairy production.
Productivity advancements within the sheep sector have partially mitigated the decline in sheepmeat exports, enabling the industry to adapt to evolving consumer preferences.
Despite remaining New Zealand's largest market for red meat, China experienced a notable 45 per cent decrease in overall exports for both beef and sheepmeat, amounting to $247 million. In contrast, exports to the United States portrayed a positive trajectory, recording a 25 per cent increase from the previous July, reaching $231 million. This rebound was particularly evident in the beef sector, which demonstrated recovery from a challenging 2022.
An unexpected star emerged in the form of Canada, claiming the position of the third-largest market for the month. The nation witnessed an impressive 98 per cent surge in exports, reaching a value of $35 million. This surge was primarily driven by escalating beef exports, underscoring the evolving dynamics of international trade.
Analyzing specific categories, sheepmeat exports experienced a 25 per cent decline by volume and a 34 per cent reduction by value compared to the previous year. Nonetheless, the figures for 2023 remained consistent with recent July results, considering the extraordinary performance of the preceding July.
Among the markets, China registered the most substantial reduction, facing a 31 per cent drop in volume and a 45 per cent decline in value.
Shifting focus to the beef sector, there was a noteworthy eight per cent increase in total beef exports by volume, reaching 46,242 tonnes compared to the previous July. However, this increase was paired with a 13 per cent drop in value, totalling $405 million. The United States stood out as the largest beef market for the month, consuming 18,154 tonnes valued at $161 million. These figures marked a substantial 115 per cent volume increase and an 81 per cent value increase compared to the modest statistics of the previous year.
Although beef exports to China experienced a 29 per cent volume drop and a 48 per cent value decline, this can be attributed, at least in part, to the remarkable exports of the previous July. Nevertheless, the numbers remained lower than other recent July figures for China.
Wrapping up, fifth-quarter exports faced an overall decline, tallying a value of $153 million - a 33 per cent drop compared to the previous July. This decline affected almost all product categories except pet food, which exhibited a two per cent increase, amounting to $12 million.