The latest lamb export statistics published by Meat Livestock Australia (MLA) are the highest export figures on record for a single month.

Some 36,703t of lamb was exported during May 2024, up 5,385t on April 2024 levels and 40% to 45% on 12 months previous.

MLA reports that the US continues to be the largest market for Australian lamb, followed by China, the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.

The growth in exports to the US market is a sore point for Irish plants which are still trying to progress market access.

The increase in Australian sheepmeat exports has also led to a greater focus on market diversification to account for higher volumes.

Relatively small volume exports to Iraq, for example, are highlighted as increasing fivefold to 1,386t, making the market the eighth-largest destination for lamb in May.

MLA cites that as Australian exports maintain a strong pace, it will present opportunities to develop market share in its traditional key markets and emerging markets.

In this regard, there is also an increased focus being placed on the UK market following the agreement of a substantial tariff-free quota.

Mutton exports

Australian mutton exports were also significantly higher in May, rising 11% year on year and recorded at 21,664t. This is the largest monthly figure since November 2019.

Mutton throughput has been amplified in recent months by reduced confidence on the back of low farmgate returns and culling due to tighter drought-related feed supplies in some parts of the country.

China remained the largest market for the month of May, despite export volumes falling 38% year on year to 5,363t.

The majority of growth occurred in MENA regions, including a doubling of exports to Saudi Arabia at 1,950t, a 146% increase in exports to Oman at 1,284t and an eightfold lift in exports to Qatar to 1,229t.

MLA reports exports to our other key markets (outside of China and MENA) remained robust; exports to Malaysia rose 26% year on year to 2,365t, exports to the US also rose by 26% to 936t and exports to Singapore lifted 11% to 889t.