Lamb slaughter forecast to decline in 2017: MLA

FALL: Meat and Livestock Australia's manager of market information Ben Thomas said lamb slaughter is projected to be 22 million head for 2017, down two per cent from the estimated 2016 level.

FALL: Meat and Livestock Australia's manager of market information Ben Thomas said lamb slaughter is projected to be 22 million head for 2017, down two per cent from the estimated 2016 level.

The New Year should see the Australian lamb and sheep market benefit from reduced supplies and positive demand from domestic consumers, Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) 2017 Sheep Industry projections have forecast.

Projections also point to a reduction in Australian lamb slaughter and decreases in both production and exports on the back of a smaller ewe flock and lower lamb markings.

MLA’s manager of market information Ben Thomas said lamb slaughter is projected to be 22million head for 2017, down two per cent from the estimated 2016 level.

“While this is a decline year-on-year, 22million head is still in line with the long-term growth trend observed over the past decade,” Mr Thomas said.

“Breaking the annual processing down to a quarterly basis, it is anticipated that the June and September quarters will be when supplies are the tightest. 

“Lamb availability in the March quarter on the other hand, is likely to benefit from carry-over stocks from the final months of 2016, when extremely wet weather delayed many lambs coming to market.”

Assuming average seasonal conditions and a return to normal lamb marking rates, the numbers of lambs processed are anticipated to increase to 23million head by 2020. Mr Thomas said Australian lamb production for 2017 is projected to ease two per cent to 492,000 tonnes carcase weight (cwt), and while this is a year-on-year decline, the volume is in the realms of record territory.

“The Australian domestic market is anticipated to remain the largest consumer and account for 48 per cent of production, or 237,000 tonnes cwt, with many encouraging signs coming from the market,” he said.

“For instance, domestic per capita consumption has stabilised in recent years, while at the same time the weighted average retail price has been increasing.

“To put this in perspective, domestic lamb retail prices in 2016 averaged just 10 cents shy of the record high set in 2011, at $14.51/kg, and per capita consumption is eight per cent higher now than what it was then.”

On the export front, Australian lamb shipments are anticipated to ease four per cent year-on-year in 2017, to 220,000 tonnes shipped weight (swt).

“While this will be the third consecutive year of slightly lower exports, volumes are still in excess of 200,000 tonnes swt – a level breached for only the first time in 2013. 

“The major markets are likely to again be the US, China and the Middle East,” Mr Thomas said.

A recovery in lamb exports is forecast from 2018, with volumes expected to reach a record 235,000 tonnes swt by 2020.