Australia's sheepmeat exports dipped by 18 per cent in July to 25,537 tonnes with around a third shipped to protein-hungry China.
Total lamb exports in July reached 18,238 tonnes, a drop of 11pc compared with June and 16pc below July last year, according to latest trade statistics compiled by Meat & Livestock Australia.
Mutton exports took a heftier cut with shipments of 7299 tonnes, a fall of 33pc month-on-month and 29pc year-on-year.
The falls reflected a drought-induced drop in production and soaring sheep and lamb prices.
China imported 8089 tonnes of sheepmeat in July, double shipments to the United States, including 5332 tonnes of lamb and 2757 tonnes of mutton, a fall month-on-month of 11pc and 39pc respectively.
Lamb exports to the US month-on-month slid by 20pc to 3106 tonnes while mutton exports declined by 32pc to 902 tonnes.
China is far and away our biggest volume market for sheepmeat with total shipments of 73,277 tonnes in the first seven months of 2019, a rise of 34pc.
So far in 2019 its lamb imports have climbed 19pc to 39,892, a rise of 19pc compared with the same period last year while mutton imports have soared 59pc to 33,385 tonnes.
Total sheepmeat exports to the US rose 7pc to 45,711 tonnes in the calendar year to July including 35,494 tonnes of lamb (up 6pc) and 10,217 tonnes of mutton (up 9pc).
During the past 12 months China has imported 126,522 tonnes of Australian sheepmeat, a 27pc rise year-on-year. Lamb imports increased 11pc to 59,150 tonnes while mutton lifted by 46pc to 67,372 tonnes.
China's increased imports are partly being driven by an outbreak of African swine fever which has decimated its pig herd.
In the past 12 months the US has imported 77,510 tonnes of Australian sheepmeat, up 8pc, including 58,786 tonnes of lamb, up 2pc year-on-year, and 18,724 tonnes of mutton, up 31pc.
Australia's third biggest sheepmeat market in the past 12 months has been Malaysia (25,348 tonnes, up 5pc) followed by Qatar (23,831 tonnes, up 20pc) and South Korea (14,991 tonnes, up 2pc).
Other significant buyers in the past 12 months have included Papua New Guinea (14,207 tonnes, up 23pc) and Japan (14,134 tonnes, a decline of 5pc).