China’s hunger for Australian sheepmeat keeps driving up exports

Australia’s sheepmeat exports hit a record 465,351 tonnes in 2019 headed by a 42 per cent hike in shipments to China.

China dwarfed the United States as our major overseas sheepmeat customer last year taking 71,223 tonnes of lamb (up 35pc) and 81,460 tonnes of mutton (up 48pc).

The US lifted its lamb imports by 3pc to 58,519 tonnes last year but its mutton shipment slipped by 1pc to 17,721.

The United Arab Emirates was our next best sheepmeat customer taking a total 26,913 tonnes (down 10pc) including 20,756 tonnes of lamb followed by Malaysia which bought a total 24,837 tonnes (up 2pc) including 17,217 tonnes of mutton (up 1pc).

Sheepmeat exports rose 9pc year-on-year in December to 43,396 tonnes. Both China and the US purchased just over 5000 tonnes of lamb each for the month.

Papua New Guinea is increasing its appetite for Australian lamb, lifting its purchases by 8pc last year to 11,219 tonnes.

Qatar’s sheepmeat imports from Australia dropped by 12pc in 2019 to 21,505 tonnes including 20,020 tonnes of lamb (down 4pc).

Monthly lamb exports peaked in May while mutton shipments hit their top in November.

China’s sheepmeat imports have risen from almost nothing in 2000 to 152,683 tonnes last year.