Imports of sheepmeat into China have shown further growth during the first four months of 2017, as domestic demand continues to drive both volumes and price.
During the months of January to April, imports of sheepmeat into China totalled 98,600 tonnes, recording an increase of 8% compared to the previous year. This has strengthened its position as the world’s largest importer of sheepmeat, with the majority of shipments coming from only two countries. It does not come as a surprise that these would be from New Zealand and Australia, the two largest lamb exporters in the world. Volumes coming from New Zealand amounted to 65,300 tonnes, making up two thirds of total shipments. While Australian shipments increased by nearly 16% year on year to 31,000 tonnes. Despite the increase in import demand which has been evident so far this year, volumes have not amounted to those which were set in 2014.
Domestic consumption in China is mainly focused around mutton, with demand increasing for lower value cuts and flaps. In the first four months of the year, the volumes of mutton from New Zealand destined for China has increased on the year. However, this trend has also been seen in the volume of lamb, showing signs of growth in both markets. This increase in lamb shipments can only be a positive for UK producers, as the already tight supplies from down under are going to an alternative market place.
Not only has the volume of shipments going into China increased, but the value of imports has moved in the same direction. During the first four months of 2017, the unit value of imports was ahead by almost 42% on last year, at 23,000 Chinese RMB (£2,700).
The average price of mutton at wholesale market in China has shown some recent signs of recovery over the last month, with prices beginning to lift above those recorded last year. Since the beginning of 2017, prices have been tracking below the last three years, but during March prices began to overtake those recorded in 2016. During May, the price has settled at 46 yuan/kg, however this is still running much lower than 2014 and 2015.