The latest data published by the European Commission shows imports of sheepmeat by China and Hong Kong running 50,000t higher for the first seven months of the year.

The volume of sheepmeat imported is running in the region of 275,000t.

This represents a significant increase on 2022 levels, but remains lower than 2021 with the knock-on consequences of COVID-19 still being felt.

The Chinese economy has still not recovered following the pandemic, with consumer spending power reduced.

A recovery in pork production is also providing consumers with access to alternative meat proteins at a lower cost, while domestic sheepmeat production has also edged upwards on the back of increased demand in recent years.

EU imports of sheepmeat are running over 10,000t, or 12%, higher than the corresponding period in 2022.

In contrast, US sheepmeat imports has reduced significantly by almost 30,000t to just 75,000. Reports indicate consumer spending is also under pressure in the US.

Imports of sheepmeat into Malaysia are running slightly lower, while imports by South Korea have recorded a marginal increase.

Global exports

Australia and New Zealand continue to dominate global sheepmeat exports.

Exports from Australia on to the global market were just shy of 350,000t for the first seven months of 2023.

This represents an increase of approximately 70,000t, with Australia on track to slaughter in excess of 22m lambs in 2023.

If this figure is met, it will represent an increase of in excess of 2.5m lambs, almost the same total sheep kill in Ireland.

Exports of sheepmeat from New Zealand are marginally lower at 250,000t.

Export volumes from New Zealand are not likely to change significantly in 2023, with production continuing to follow a downward trend.

Global sheepmeat imports and exports. (Source: European Commission)

Global sheepmeat imports and exports. (Source: European Commission)

As can be seen in the bar charts, exports on to the global market from other sources are miniscule in contrast with Australia and New Zealand.