China's lamb imports on track to crack 70,000 tonnes in 2019

China cruises past the US as the major importer of our lamb

Sheep
SKEWERING THE MARKET: China is now Australia's dominant export market for both lamb and mutton.

SKEWERING THE MARKET: China is now Australia's dominant export market for both lamb and mutton.

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China has cruised past the United States as Australia's largest volume export market for lamb.

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China and the United States continue to gobble up Australian lamb, between them grabbing half of the 20,376 tonnes exported in September.

The US has been pushed into second spot as Australia's biggest volume market for lamb by China which is also now the dominant buyer of our mutton.

The US was Australia's largest lamb market in 2018, taking 56,830 tonnes while so far in 2019 China has imported 51,029 tonnes including 6141 tonnes in September, putting it on track to crack 70,000 tonnes for the year.

China was Australia's biggest export mutton market in 2018, taking 54,937 tonnes, but its imports this calendar year are likely to exceed that figure by a hefty margin.

In the 12 months to September China imported 63,757 tonnes of Australian lamb, up 19pc year-on-year, and 70,567 tonnes of mutton, up 36pc.

China imported 14,644 tonnes of Australian lamb and mutton in September, a 36 per cent increase on August and up 55pc on the same month last year.

Its lamb imports of 6141 tonnes in September were up 23pc compared with August and an astonishing 132pc on the same month last year.

China's increase in sheepmeat imports is being driven, in large part, by a devastating outbreak of African swine fever which has decimated its pig herd.

Lamb exports to the US are continuing to grow strongly with 4162 tonnes shipped in September, a rise of 38pc compared with the previous month and 41pc higher than September last year.

Australia has a number of solid second-tier markets for both lamb and mutton headed by Qatar, the UAE, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Canada and Jordan.

Qatar has a growing appetite for our lamb, taking 21,273 tonnes in the 12 months to September, a 20pc increase year-on-year.

Its near neighbour in the Middle East, the UAE, imported 20,394 tonnes of lamb in the year to September, down 1pc year-on-year and 6623 tonnes of mutton, down 24pc.

South Korea's imports of Australian lamb in the year to September were relatively steady at 13,041 tonnes, down just 1pc, but its mutton imports dropped 15pc to 14,721 tonnes.

Papua New Guinea has a growing taste for our sheepmeat, taking 11,638 tonnes of lamb in the year to September (up 20pc year-on-year) and 2456 tonnes of mutton (up 31pc).

Japan remains an important high-value sheepmeat market taking 9958 tonnes of lamb in the year to September, (up 5pc) and 4852 tonnes of mutton (down 5pc).

Canada also lifted its lamb imports in the 12 months to September, taking 8276 tonnes (up 6pc) and 1111 tonnes of mutton (up 40pc).

The European Union, a lucrative sheepmeat market Australia wants to crack open during free trade negotiations, imported 9263 tonnes of our lamb in the year to September (down 12pc) and 3834 tonnes of mutton (down 26pc).

Meanwhile, Jordan imported 8117 tonnes of lamb in the year to September, down 21pc, and 445 tonnes of mutton (down 48pc).

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