US rides to the rescue for red meat exports

United States demand for red meat has helped offset ongoing weakness in New Zealand’s key Chinese market, according to export figures for February.

Meat Industry Association data shows red meat export receipts for the month were $932 million, 10% higher than the relatively low export value recorded in February 2023, largely due to a rise exports to the US.

China’s continued weakness was illustrated by the fact it was the only sheepmeat market to record a decline in volume compared to February last year, falling 8% to 19,401 tonnes.

Beef exports for the month increased by 20% overall to 48,431t, 15% above the five year average for February exports.
Export volumes to China rose 4%.

Beef exports to the European Union and United Kingdom also increased in both value and volume, with 998t exported to the EU so far this year, worth $19.8m. This is 38% increase in volume and 16% increase in value compared to the first two months of last year.

The EU is a high paying market, the average free-on-board value of beef is $19.83/kg, more than twice the $8.31/kg average. 

Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva said that for February the US accounted for nearly the same proportion of overall red meat exports as China – 28% and 30% respectively.

“However, the results from the high-value EU market highlights how the limited quota for beef in the free trade agreement is a real missed opportunity for companies to develop a valuable market to help boost economic returns for the sector and the country.”

February sheepmeat exports totalled 41,850t, an 18% increase on the low volume exported in February last year but still below the average February exports for the previous five years.

The value of those exports increased 9% due to improved prices in most markets, except China where it fell 24% to $101m.

In contrast sales to the US increased 74% to 4262t, a record, and the value rose 54% to $68m.

Sheepmeat exports to the UK increased 41% by volume to 3316t and 35% by value to $30m compared to 2023, but this was still below the $59m achieved in February 2022. 

Exports of beef increased by volume and value to most major markets, led by the US where volumes rose 43% to 18,849t, just ahead of China at 18,649t.

The value of those exports for the month increased 20% to $406m compared to a year earlier, with the US leading the way, increasing 55% to $162m. 

Japan was 34% higher at $26m but sales to China fell 3% to $137m.

Exports to the UK rose 336% by volume compared to pre-FTA February 2023, to 408t, and 598% by value to $6m, making it the eighth largest beef market.

Exports to Korea fell 20% to 1280t and 19% by value to $10m. 

The value of fifth quarter exports dropped 8% to $166m compared to February last year.

Increases in edible offal, 23% to $32m, and hides and skins 40% to $26m, were offset by decreases in casings and tripe, which fell 9% to $30m, tallow, down 48% to $21m, and blood products, which were down 30% to $19m.