After the drought-induced lower lamb crop for this season the anticipated slowdown in New Zealand lamb production is now starting to materialise on top of the usual seasonal drop in supply.

According to EBLEX, in March 2014 the lamb kill was down 3% on the year, while in in April slaughterings were down 11%. With slightly higher carcase weights, lamb production for April was down 9%.

It adds that meanwhile, the adult sheep kill is now tailing off considerably. Having been 5% higher in the first six months of the season (October to March) the adult sheep kill for April was down 26% on the year, with production 25% lower.

EBLEX analysts suggest that this pattern is expected to be generally repeated for the remainder of the season and potentially into the start of the new season. As such, the supply of New Zealand sheep meat is expected to be much tighter for the remainder of this year.

As a result of this lower production export volumes should also tighten considerably. With the Chinese market still showing strong growth this situation is likely to further limit the volume of product being sent to the UK and Europe.

Latest trade figures show that the switch in focus towards China is still continuing. Exports to Saudi Arabia continue to perform strongly as well. During April total New Zealand sheep meat exports fell by 4%.

Despite this there was a 9% increase in volumes being shipped to China and a 28% increase to Saudi Arabia. In contrast, volumes to the EU fell by 16%, driven by an 18% drop in volumes to the UK.