Covid-19 affecting sheep prices massively in New Zealand

The coronavirus – or Covid-19 as it is also known as – seems to be playing havoc on sheep exports from New Zealand to China.

In 2019, there was a sharp increase in the amount of sheepmeat – and beef for that matter – to China from New Zealand. However, due to the recent outbreak of the coronavirus in China, these exports have been greatly affected.

Figures from Bord Bia show that the deadweight price for sheep being offered by meat processing facilities – in New Zealand – is standing at 391c/kg as of February 29, 2020.

At the end of November in 2019, sheepmeat prices – in New Zealand – were at an all-time high of 529c/kg. Since then, prices have plummeted by over 135c/kg to 391c/kg at the end of February.

In 2019, China imported 51% or 203,865t of New Zealand sheepmeat. This was 37,000t more than 2017/2018. Therefore, if this market doesn’t get back up and running soon, it is going to have a huge impact on sheep farmers and the prices they receive for their animals.

There are reports that there is a significant quantity of New Zealand sheepmeat waiting to enter China; however, as this virus continues to spread, the likelihood of this meat entering the Chinese market anytime soon looks highly unlikely.

The reports also suggest that a drop in demand for meat in China due to the coronavirus may mean cheaper prices in New Zealand supermarkets.

Global outlook

At home, in Ireland, prices for sheep in meat processing facilities have been very strong since the start of the year for both hoggets and ewes.

Data from Bord Bia shows that the average price of Irish sheepmeat on March 2, 2019, was €4.12/kg. Fast-forward to now and it is 476c/kg – an increase of 64c/kg.

Similar price increases can be seen in other competing – sheep producing – countries such as the UK, France, Spain and Australia.

The price for sheepmeat in the UK on March 2, 2019, stood at €4.83/kg. On February 29, 2020, sheep farmers in the UK – on average – were receiving €6.11/kg – which is an increase of €1.28 compared to the same period last year. 

France is leading the way in terms of price, with farmers receiving – on average – €6.48/kg. This is an increase of 37c/kg compared to this time last year.

Furthermore, sheep farmers in Spain and Australia are also benefitting from price increases. The price of lamb as of March 2, 2020, in Spain, was 539c/kg and 476c/kg in Australia – which are considerably higher compared to this time last year.