Australian lamb exports to reach record levels

Australian lamb exports are to reach record levels in the second half (H2) of 2015, AHDB the English organisation for the beef and sheep industry says.

In the first half of this year shipments increased 4% on the year and are forecast to continue to be higher in the second half of 2015, it says.

Consequently, according to AHDB, exports are set to overtake the previous record level of last year.

Predicted to reach 250,000t, shipments are forecast to be 6% up on the year which is almost a third higher than the five year average, it says.

In contrast, mutton exports are forecast to decline 23% to 142,000t following the high volumes shipped in 2014, AHDB says.

According to AHDB the growth in lamb exports will be driven by a number of factors, including high levels of Australian production, the current weakness of the Australian dollar against the US dollar and high levels of demand from key export markets.

Meanwhile, it says that the declining volumes of mutton shipped is due to a fall in production and lower levels of demand from China.

Following a much stronger than expected start to the year for Australian lamb slaughterings, it says that full year figures have been revised upwards to 22.25m head – level with 2014.

Drier than expected weather in Australia in the past few months, coupled with an average to drier than average three-month rainfall, production is expected to remain high through to the end of the year, it says.

This suggests a higher lambing percentage it says, following a reduction in the size of the breeding flock last year.

Carcase weights for lambs are also forecast to be up this year, which will mean that total lamb production is expected to increase to a record level of 492,000t, according to AHDB.

Previous estimates had lamb production coming back 3% this year, however, following three years of high levels of adult sheep slaughterings, the Australian flock is expected to fall in size again this year and next to be around 69.8m head, it says.

Looking ahead, AHDB says that this inevitably means that lamb supplies will tighten in 2016 and 2017.

Adult sheep slaughterings continue to be forecast at a lower level than in 2014 it says, however, previous forecasts have been revised upwards, with a fall of 16% forecast for 2015, compared to the previous suggestion of a 23% decline.

The average carcase weight of adult sheep is expected to continue to be lower, meaning total mutton production is still forecast to be down in 2015, but the extent of the drop has been revised up, it says.

As international demand for lamb grows AHDB says that it is expected that an increasing proportion of Australian lamb production will find its way to the export market, putting pressure on domestic consumption, which is forecast to be back 3% this year overall.

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