Thursday, 01 April 2021 14:16

Red meat exports to China back on track

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva. Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva.

Red meat exports have returned to pre-Covid status, with China regaining the mantle of the biggest market.

Exports reached $906.7 million during February 2021, the same value as February 2020, according to latest analysis from the Meat Industry Association (MIA).

However there were shifts in the destinations for products with exports to China increasing 124% year-on-year, but dropping for most other markets.

“Twelve months ago, we witnessed the early impact of COVID-19 in China and the industry moved decisively to shift New Zealand beef and lamb products to other markets in line with where the demand was,” says MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva.

“Ultimately, the February 2021 results show a return to more recent ‘business as usual’ levels of demand with ongoing high volumes to China and steady exports to other markets as we come into the peak of the processing season.”

New Zealand’s overall beef exports of 47,467 tonnes during February 2021 were the highest for the month in more than 20 years. This was partly supply-driven, with high numbers of steer and heifer sent for processing in later January and early February, coupled with demand from China.

The overall volume of sheepmeat exports also increased by 10%, with the 28,080 tonnes sent to China the highest monthly export to that market. China remained the biggest market for sheepmeat, followed by the UK and US. Volumes of sheepmeat exports to the US rose by 8% to 2,959 tonnes.

“It is also encouraging to see signs of an increase in food service sector demand in the United States, particularly for frozen racks,” says Karapeeva.

 “That can be attributed to the ongoing rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme there.”

Exports to Australia increased by 6% to a value of $16.7m. While the majority of New Zealand meat exports to Australia are co-products, beef exports rose by 172% compared to February 2020, to 508 tonnes. This was largely due to Australia currently undergoing a major herd rebuilding phase with significantly reduced cattle processing.

The MIA is closely monitoring the supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is an area of growing concern with port-related issues both at home and overseas and many of our members are seeing shipping delays and increased costs,” notes Karapeeva.

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