Records all round for dairy and meat exports

China has overtaken the United States as the biggest market for New Zealand beef exports in 2019.
China has overtaken the United States as the biggest market for New Zealand beef exports in 2019. Photo credit: Newshub

The first four months of the 2019/20 dairy export season has set new records, boosted by higher prices and volumes, Stats NZ said.

Lamb and beef export prices also reached record levels at the end of 2019. 

Dairy products and meat, New Zealand's top goods exports, together account for almost 40 percent of the value of annual goods exports.

In the ongoing 2019/20 dairy export season, the value of dairy exports rose 17 percent from August to December 2019 compared with the same period last year, with quantity up 6.7 percent.

"So far, this season's dairy exports have already exceeded $6.6 billion," said StatsNZ international statistics manager Darren Allan.

"This is the highest value of dairy exported for the four months from August to December, surpassing the previous peak of dairy exports for the same period in 2013/14, which was driven by high prices," said Allan.

For December alone, dairy exports of milk powder, butter, and cheese reached $2.0 billion (up $228 million from December 2018), the highest value on record for any month.

Of these dairy commodities, milk powder was the main contributor to the rise (up $149 million to $1.2 billion). 

The rise was driven by price, as quantity fell slightly for the month (down 0.4 percent). In December 2019, milk powder exports to China were down $68 million from the same month last year.

Meat and edible offal exports also contributed strongly to the rise in total exports in December 2019, up $146 million from December 2018 to reach $791 million. 

Stats NZ said the rise was driven by record-high prices for beef and lamb.

Beef led the rise in meat exports, up $114 million from the same month last year to $392 million. 

This rise was driven by price - average beef prices reached a record $9.42 per kilo in December 2019. Quantity was also up slightly by 4.9 percent compared with December 2018.

"Beef prices have been steadily rising in the last few months, with the average price of beef increasing 22 percent since September 2019," said Allan.

Average lamb prices also reached a record $12.18 per kilo in December 2019, pushing up total lamb exports to $251 million (up $22 million or 9.5 percent). 

This rise in price contrasts with a fall in the number of lamb exports (down 4.5 percent), with exports to the United States down $11 million.

Meanwhile, China has overtaken the United States as the biggest market for New Zealand beef exports in 2019.

Stats NZ said in the year ended December 2019, beef exports to China rose $880 million (112 percent) from 2018 to reach $1.7 billion. In contrast, beef exports to the US fell $245 million (20 percent) to $956 million.

"China became the number one destination for beef exports from New Zealand in 2019." 

"In 2019, nearly half of the total value and quantity of beef exports were sent to China. Around a quarter were exported to the US, reversing the figures for 2018 when it was the top destination."

The annual movements for both countries were quantity-driven. This was partly due to the strong demand from the Chinese market for alternative meat sources such as beef and lamb, after the African swine fever outbreak in China in 2019 affected pork production.

The average unit values of beef exports for the December 2019 year to China and the US both rose, by 12 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

"The total value of beef exports to overseas markets was up in 2019, with higher prices and greater volumes."