China is to remain the dominant destination for sheepmeat exports for the 2021-2022 season.

This is according to the New Zealand beef and lamb mid season update.

It has been well documented that in recent times, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic began, that New Zealand sheepmeat exports have moved from the EU to China and this is expected to remain the case.

The report said that Chinese sheepmeat import demand is forecast to remain strong, reflecting consumption growth.

The report added that China experienced strong economic growth during 2021, which supported consumer spending on goods, including meat protein.

Furthermore, the growing level of urbanisation, the growing affluence of Chinese consumers, combined with the decline in domestic pork because of African Swine Fever (AFS), has resulted in the Chinese consumer shifting preference to higher quality meat proteins such as sheepmeat and beef.

The report also indicated that total sheepmeat consumption has lifted around 3% in the past decade because of these factors.

Despite this growth, sheepmeat remains a small, niche market, making up only 4% of total consumption.

Even as the Chinese pig herd recovers from ASF and pork supply increases, sheepmeat is expected to remain part of the Chinese consumer diet.

China is expected to experience weaker economic conditions in 2022, albeit coming off high levels. New Zealand’s reliance on China for sheepmeat exports increases its exposure to shifts in economic conditions.

The news that New Zealand exports of sheepmeat are continuing to head to China will only come as good news to Irish sheep farmers.