The extent to which Chinese sheepmeat imports were curtailed by stringent COVID-19-related restrictions is clear to see in the latest European Commission sheep market update.

Imports of sheepmeat by China and Hong Kong contracted sharply in 2022.

As can be seen in the bar charts, the volume of sheepmeat imported by China and Hong Kong fell by a massive volume of in excess of 100,000t in the period January to November 2022.

Total sheepmeat imports reduced from over 800,000t for the corresponding period in 2021 to less than 700,000t in 2022.

To put the scale of this reduction in context, it is over 25,000t more than the total volume of sheepmeat exported from Ireland, which was recorded at 100,000t.

The US remains the second-largest sheepmeat importer, with volumes imported recorded at over 300,000t for the first 11 months of 2022.

This is on a par with 2021 levels following a number of years of substantial growth in imports.

The volume of sheepmeat imported by EU countries increased by 30% to 71,874t, primarily driven by 13,000t more sheepmeat imported from New Zealand.