New Zealand Red Meat Exports: Decline in 2023 Figures Reflects Global Economy

Sheep exports rose by 3 per cent in volume, but fell by 14 per cent in value to $3.7 billion.

New Zealand's red meat sector is set to export $10.2 billion worth of products in 2023, down 11 percent from the previous year, according to the Meat Industry Association.

The analysis shows that although export volumes increased, the value fell from record figures for both mutton and beef in 2022.

Chirma Karabeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, said red meat exports were „a good barometer of the global economy”.

He said the decline was due to tough economic conditions and inflationary pressures in several key markets.

„Consumers around the world still want to buy red meat, but they don't pay for it.”

Garabeva said increased supply from other exporters had also had an impact, including a significant increase in Australian sheep exports.

„The top five markets remained unchanged from 2022, but the value of New Zealand exports largely declined, reflecting the overall trend.”

China was the largest market, but exports fell 16 percent to $3.6 billion.

However, exports to the United States rose 8 percent to $2.5 billion, largely due to increased demand for beef.

„New Zealand's red meat industry has a diverse export market strategy and this has helped to mitigate the impact of weak demand and pricing in any one market.”

Karabeeva said companies have other options and are making „good business decisions” as red meat sales in China decline.

Exports to Japan fell 31 percent to $388 million, 22 percent to the UK to $361 million, and the Netherlands fell 4 percent to $347 million.

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Goat meat

Increased competition from Australian sheep exports caused problems for New Zealand. Photo / Rowena Duncum

Goat meat exports rose by 3 percent to 384,239 tonnes. However, the value fell by 14 percent to $3.7 billion.

The decline largely reflected the cost of living in key markets, but increased competition from across the Tasman, where exports increased following three years of good growing conditions and rebuilding herds.

Australian sheep meat exports to 2023 increased by 25 per cent overall and 50 per cent to China.

China's tariff on Australian sheep meat drops to zero by the start of 2023, meaning New Zealand will no longer enjoy a tariff advantage in the market.

China continued to be New Zealand's largest sheep market with 216,079 tonnes, 56 per cent of total sheep exports.

Volumes rose 10 percent, but value also fell 10 percent to $1.4 billion.

The United States was New Zealand's third largest market at 27,567 tonnes, but second largest by value at $544 million.

Volume and value fell by 5 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

At $18.04/kg free on board (FoB), the US was still one of New Zealand's highest value markets.

The UK was the second largest sheep meat market, at 30,133 tonnes, up 7 percent in volume and valued at $291 million.

The decline was attributed to higher inflation and the impact of food prices on consumer spending, with some impact from increased Australian supplies following Australia's free trade agreement with Britain coming into effect mid-year.


Despite the increase in volume, export value of beef decreased.  Photo / Ross Sedford
Despite the increase in volume, export value of beef decreased. Photo / Ross Sedford

The volume of beef exports rose 7 percent to 511,680 tonnes, but the value fell 9 percent to $4.4 billion, reflecting difficult economic conditions, particularly in North Asia, and higher volume exports from other global suppliers.

There was a significant recovery in beef exports to the US.

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Drought conditions, which led to higher US domestic production in 2022, eased in some regions and both New Zealand and Australia benefited from increased demand with good quota access.

New Zealand's beef exports to the US rose 46 percent to 181,040 tonnes and 28 percent to $1.6 billion in value.

Exports to Canada also increased by 77 percent to 18,110 million tonnes, with a value of 52 percent to $155 million.

China was the largest market at 203,509 tonnes, down 6 percent.

However, a weak economy, high inventory levels and large volumes of Brazilian exports saw the value fall 26 percent to $1.56 billion.

Exports to other major North Asian markets all declined due to inflation and cost-of-living pressures.

Japan was down 34 percent to $230 million, Taiwan was down 6 percent to $176 million, and Korea was down 40 percent to $137 million.

The UK was a small but developed market.

The NZ-UK FTA comes into effect in mid-2023, giving New Zealand significantly improved quota access to beef. This was followed by an 83 percent increase in volume of exports to the UK to 2421 tonnes and a 93 percent increase in value to $27 million.

Much of this growth was in high-value chilled beef, with the UK becoming one of New Zealand's top markets for chilled beef in 2023, with exports of 884 tonnes valued at $11.8 million.

Chirma Karabeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association.
Chirma Karabeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association.

Exports of the fifth quarter

Fifth-quarter exports were $2 billion in 2023, down 8 percent from 2022.

Export value for most categories decreased or slightly increased.

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Casings and tripe were the year's largest fifth-quarter category with shipments down 13 percent to $383 million.

The largest market was China at $281 million, followed by Italy at $18 million and Korea at $14 million.

Edible waste was the second largest category, valued at $341 million, down 4 percent.

China was the top market at $74 million, followed by Japan at $65 million and Korea at $37 million.

Cumulative red meat exports for December 2023

Cumulative exports of red meat were valued at $923 million in December 2023, up 1 percent from the same period in 2022.

The top markets were China with $320 million, the US with $237 million, the UK with $44 million, Japan with $42 million and the Netherlands with $25 million.

A total of 39,085 tons of logs were exported, up 16 percent in volume and down 3 percent in value to $318 million.

Beef exports were up 18 percent in volume to 52,805 tons, but down 10 percent in value to $436 million.

Fifth-quarter exports fell 11 percent to $170 million.

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