Coronavirus to hit Australian mutton and lamb exports

Zach RelphCountryman
Chinese meat vendors wait for customers at a Beijing market.
Camera IconChinese meat vendors wait for customers at a Beijing market. Credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The devastating coronavirus outbreak could affect Australian sheep producers and curb mutton and lamb exports to China, an agricultural analyst warns.

Although farmers are enjoying lamb and mutton values respectively trading well above 900¢/kg carcase weight and 650¢/kg cwt, the viral disease threatens to curtail Chinese protein demand.

Rabobank senior animal protein analyst Angus Gidley-Baird noted 25 per cent of Australia’s lamb and 40 per cent of Australia’s mutton was exported to China in 2019.

He said the pandemic, which has thrown global trading and travel into chaos, would knock the sheep market.

“The reduced trade into China as a result of the coronavirus will have a significant impact on Australia’s sheepmeat industry,” Mr Gidley-Baird said.

“Processors are expected to face pressure, with high domestic livestock prices and reduced demand out of China.

“It is expected it will take some time before Chinese consumers and businesses return to normal, and, therefore, sales into China are expected to be impacted at least until the end of Q2 at the earliest.”

The Eastern States Restocker Lamb Indicator charged to a 1071¢/kg cwt record high last week.

It marked a 443¢ increase year-on-year.

Heavy lamb value also reached 948¢/kg cwt last week — up 313¢ year-on-year.

Mr Gidley-Baird said lamb and mutton prices were at levels usually experienced in May and June.

“All classes of lamb and sheep have continued to defy limits, with prices pushing towards record territory in February,” he said.

“We have not seen price rises of this magnitude at this time of the year.”

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