Little change in production
Stable lamb production and a slight decline in mutton production is forecast for 2018 as producers continue to expand their flocks, according to Meat & Livestock Australia’s 2018 Sheep Industry Projections.
MLA’s market intelligence manager Scott Tolmie said while lamb and sheep slaughter were both expected to drop slightly in 2018, to 22.5 million head and 7.2 million head, respectively, carcase weights would increase.
‘‘We are forecasting a slight increase in lamb carcase weights in 2018 which will help offset lower slaughter, resulting in a stable outlook for production at 514 000 tonnes cwt,’’ Mr Tolmie said.
‘‘The story for mutton, however, is slightly different, with carcase weights expected to ease from the record highs of 2017.
‘‘This, combined with declining slaughter, suggests we will see a small reduction in mutton production to 177 000 tonnes cwt.’’
Mr Tolmie said the 2018 outlook for the Australian sheep industry was positive, with the increase in production and lift in prices recorded in 2017 underpinning the market’s current strength.
‘‘With flat to declining production forecast this year, combined with strong, ongoing international demand, lamb and mutton prices should continue to see strong support this year,’’ he said.
‘‘Consumer demand for lamb has been strong, with exports hitting record highs in 2017 at 251 000 tonnes cwt as well as maintaining domestic consumption levels despite increases in average retail prices.
‘‘While lamb exports are expected to draw back slightly in 2018 to 244 000 tonnes swt, this is still four per cent above the five-year average.’’
Mutton exports are also likely to reduce as a result of decreasing slaughter flowing through to a decline in production. China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia remain the major export markets for mutton, and together account for more than 40 per cent of Australian exports.
Mr Tolmie said that although 2018 should see a slight drop in overall sheepmeat production, it was forecast to rise again in 2019 as the national flock grows.
‘‘Lamb carcase weights for the year are expected to average around 22.9 kg, continuing the upward trajectory of the last 10 years.’’