Animal shortage puts a dampener on record month of beef exports to US

Farmers are not “getting excited“ about record month of beef exports to the US, a Waikato sheep and beef farmer says.

Phil Weir said increased beef exports are good news at the farm-gate level, but buyers are struggling to get enough due to a lack of animals.

Beef exports increased 5% in volume and 9% in value in May, according to the Meat Industry Association press release trumpeting “green shoots” in the sector.

A record $358 million of beef was exported to the United States in May and the Association has signalled this as signs of growth in the industry which has suffered from low lamb export prices.

But Weir says the good news is not yet cause for celebration.

“I’d question how strong the green shoots are.”

Weir, director of northern North Island Beef and Lamb NZ, said it’s good the US is buying our beef, but it doesn’t make up for fewer Chinese exports, which he said has been terrible for the industry.

China has traditionally been the dominant buyer of New Zealand beef, but exports had recently decreased due to economic depression in China, Weir said.

It remains the second largest red meat market, the Association says, with exports of $232 million. This is 42 per cent down from last May.

Weir said businesses like Silver Fern Farms who buy meat from farmers are struggling due to a lack of animals.

He said farmers are in a tricky position having slaughtered most of their animals for export, and struggling to get new animals due to a reduced supply from the calf-rearing industry.

Calf-rearing profitability was “marginal”, and other factors like more farming to forestry conversions were also having an impact.