America Loses Taste for Mutton as Lamb Exports Rise

By Hari Yellina
Representational Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

In February, 20,774 tonnes of lamb were exported from Australia, up 22% from the start of the year. Meanwhile, mutton exports are struggling, particularly to the United States, where they fell by 36% from January to February, with only 761 tonnes shipped from Australia. Papua New Guinea (PNG) appears to have maintained its strong appetite for Australian lamb in February, climbing to third place in 2022, accounting for 8.4% of overall lamb exports. According to trade numbers provided last week by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE), PNG saw a 21% increase in lamb imports from Australia in February, bringing the total to 1738 tonnes shipping weight (swt).

This is a whopping 68 percent greater than the five-year average for February. PNG demand is increasing, according to Thomas Elder Markets analyst Matt Dalgleish, following robust flows in January. “In terms of market share of Australian lamb exports, the US and China are ahead of PNG, and both countries witnessed an increase in demand in February,” Mr Dalgleish said. “Aussie lamb exports to the United States increased by 11% in February to 5339 tonnes.” Despite this increase, lamb exports from Australia to the United States are about 8% lower than the five-year average.”

Exports of lamb to China have increased by 46 percent in February compared to January, with 3919 tonnes recorded. “As in the US, the robust recovery in February trade volumes to China was insufficient to lift monthly trade volumes above the five-year normal for February, with levels running 13 percent below the seasonal trend,” Mr Dalgleish added. Mutton trading volumes are about 18% lower than the usual trend for February. “They’re pretty much clinging to the bottom of the “average” monthly flow variability expected at this time of year,” he added. “Mutton exports from Australia fell by 36% in the United States from January to February, with only 761 tonnes reported.

“Thankfully, mutton commerce to “other destinations,” excluding China and the United States, picked up the shortfall in the United States, increasing by 15% over the month to 6573 tonnes sent.” The number of tonnes sent to the United States fell by 426 tonnes in February. Despite a 5% drop in demand in February from January’s levels, nearly 37% of the mutton flows for 2022 went to China, resulting in 4021 tonnes swt going offshore.

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