The UK became one of New Zealand’s top 10 markets for beef exports in 2023, with the volume supplied up 83% on 2022 levels to 2,421t, worth NZ$27m (€15.3m).

While this is tiny in the context of New Zealand and its total beef exports of 511,680t (a 7% increase on 2022), New Zealand’s Meat Industry Association (MIA) highlights the NZ-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which gives New Zealand “significantly improved” quota access for beef.

While New Zealand was the winner for beef access to the UK because of the trade deal, sheep meat exports lost out due to Australia’s trade deal with the UK.

Volumes in 2023 were down 7% to 30,133t, and MIA attributes this loss to Australia getting improved access to the UK market through its FTA and sending an additional 4,000t of sheep meat in 2023.

Overall picture

As Figure 1 shows, New Zealand exported 511,680t of beef in 2023, but while the volume was higher by 7%, the value was 9% lower than the previous year at NZ$4.4bn(€2.5bn).

MIA attributes this to “difficult economic conditions in key markets and high levels of exports from other large global suppliers”.

There was a rebound of New Zealand beef exports to the US after hitting a 20-year low in 2022, volumes for 2023 were up 46% to 181,040t, though value increased by much less at NZ$1.6bn (€900m), 28% higher than in 2022.

China remained the largest export market for New Zealand beef, though the volume was down 6% to 203,509t and a sharp decline in value, down 28% to NZ$1.56bn (€886m). MIA highlighted that 40% of China’s beef imports were sourced from Brazil.

New Zealand exported 384,239t of sheep meat in 2023 (Figure 2), which is 3% higher than 2022; but the value was down 14% to NZ$3.7bn (€2.1bn).

MIA puts this down to difficult trading conditions in key export markets and the 25% surge in Australian sheep meat exports to 535,000t following flock rebuilding.

China is now established as the main market for New Zealand sheep meat exports, and in 2023, the volume increased by 10% on the previous year to 216,079t, though the value was down 10% to NZ$1.4bn (€795m).

This was attributed by MIA to difficulties in China’s economy combined with a surge in supplies from Australia.

The US is the next largest market after the UK, taking 27,567t, though this was 5% lower than the record 2022 total.