November 27, 2003
New Zealand Mutton Exports Rise 10% in Past Year
New Zealand's sheep farmers boosted their mutton exports by 10% in the past year, but their earnings dropped 2%, eroded by the rising exchange rate.
The dollar's relatively high value against the currencies of key trading partners drove the average price paid to farmers for mutton down to $4500 per ton, compared with $5000 per ton last year.
In total, mutton exports for the year to September 2003 were valued at $256 million, compared with $261 million in 2002. But the volume exported in 2003 was 57,400 tons, a significant rise on the previous year's 52,400 tons, because of increased production when drought-struck farmers sent extra stock to slaughter.
Agricultural economist Rob Davison, director of the Economic Service, said the increased supply was mostly due to increased slaughter during last season's drought.
"Last summer and autumn farmers were forced to reduce flock numbers in the drought-affected Taranaki-Manawatu, Wairarapa and northern South Island regions," he said.
"But for 2003-04 we expect mutton production to fall 11%".
"Some sheep this year will be held back to rebuild numbers previously lost." Mr Davison said. Meat New Zealand chief executive Mark Jeffries said mutton had historically been a poor relation to lamb, but recent innovation had turned it into an added value product.
More of New Zealand's mutton exports were being turned into added value cuts and boneless product to be used as "ingredients" by food processors.
Now, 89% of mutton exports were value added, compared with 77% 10 years ago, when 23% made up the lower value whole carcass trade.
The top five export markets for mutton in the year were Britain, Germany, Taiwan, France and Malaysia, consumes around 59% of mutton from New Zealand.